In an audit assessing the European Commission and Member States’ actions towards improving farm animal welfare, the European Court of Auditors calls for more effective spending of animal welfare funds and improved enforcement efforts. Eurogroup for Animals trusts that the Court’s recommendation to the Commission to evaluate the impact of the past animal welfare strategy will aid the next Commission to ensure existing legislation is properly enforced and new laws address the remaining pressing farm animal welfare problems.
Today, the European Court of Auditors issued its first-ever report assessing the Commission’s action in ensuring animal welfare is taken into account in the EU’s agricultural model to the full extent of the law and the Commission’s own objectives. This special report on animal welfare further substantiates the animal advocacy movement’s repeated findings evidencing the shortcomings of EU animal welfare legislation and their enforcement mechanisms in effectively improving farm animal welfare on the ground.
In examining the proper use of taxpayers’ money and the actions undertaken by the Commission to better reflect citizens support for higher farm animal welfare, the report scrutinizes the implementation of animal welfare-related legislation across the EU and the promotion of animal welfare best practices on European farms. The audit particularly focuses on the effectiveness of the Commission’s actions in five Member States: Germany, France, Italy, Poland, and Romania, which altogether account for more than 50% of the EU meat market.
Mr Wojciechowski, one of the Members of the European Court of Auditors leading this audit and former MEP, President of the Intergroup on the welfare and conservation of animals commented “I truly believe in Mahatma Gandhi’s quote that ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’ and trust this report will contribute to greater welfare for the millions of animals reared in farms across Europe”.
Based on its findings, the Court calls on the Commission to take action to better align the use of public money with citizens’ overwhelming support for farm animal welfare. More than nine in ten EU citizens reported that they believe it is important to protect the welfare of farmed animals while 82% of them believe the welfare of farmed animals should be better protected than it currently is and 87% agrees that non-compliance with animal welfare standards should entail reduced subsidy payments.
In line with Eurogroup for Animals’ request for a more humane agricultural policy, the Court urges the Commission to make the CAP more efficient in delivering on animal welfare objectives across the EU. Although rural development policy encourages farmers to pursue higher standards, the Court finds investments supporting higher animal welfare on farms have been minimal: 1.5 % of the total planned expenditure for rural development measures.
However, the report falls short of providing an analysis of CAP funding that directly conflicts with animal welfare. CAP investment funds for the purpose of modernising farm infrastructures, which are aimed to contribute to developing rural areas, are oftentimes used in a way that reinforces intensive livestock production, with detrimental consequences on the welfare of farm animals and biodiversity.
The Court also points to shortcomings in the Commission monitoring of the Member States’ implementation of the Transport and Slaughter Regulations, as well as of the Pigs Directive. In particular, the report states that the data available at EU level is not extensive and reliable enough to convey meaningful information about levels of compliance with animal welfare legislation. To redress the overall lack of compliance with animal welfare legislation, the Court recommends the Commission to design and implement an enforcement strategy that would embrace the Court’s recommendations.
The auditors specifically encourage the Commission and Member States to improve the quality of checks by setting targeted inspections on animal welfare during transport and make a better use of TRACES, the live transport monitoring system. Acknowledging the misuse of the derogation on mandatory pre-slaughter stunning, the report further stresses the need for official data collection to prevent slaughterhouse operators from instrumentalizing the exemption to speed up processing line. Finally, the auditors suggested that the Commission should challenge Member States to use animal-based indicators in an attempt to curb non-compliance levels with animal welfare legislation in the pig sector.
“We welcome the Courts recommendations on animal welfare spending under the CAP, better enforcement mechanisms in certain areas as well as the reference to the positive impact of infringement procedures.” concludes Reineke Hameleers, Eurogroup for Animals Director. “It is a pity that after 8 years of stagnation in delivering higher welfare for all farmed animals, the auditors haven’t advised on the effectiveness and consistency of the current animal welfare acquis. We are facing a situation where farm animal legislation is out of date and several farm animal species are unprotected. We call on the Court to consider this review as a follow up report“.