ANIMALS USED FOR FOOD ARE NOT JUST AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS BUT SENTIENT BEINGS. FROM THE MOMENT THEY ARE BORN UNTIL THEY REACH THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE, THEY NEED TO BE TREATED ACCORDINGLY.
Eurogroup for Animals campaigns for the development and enforcement of higher animal welfare standards in food and farming, both through EU legislation and through the voluntary means of responsible food chain actors. We encourage financial compensation for farmers who invest in higher welfare production systems, and highlight cases where EU subsidies lead to animal suffering.
Ultimately, we also believe that supporting more sustainable, environmentally friendly and animal friendly food is our shared responsibility towards society, and that everyone can take action to create a Europe that cares for animals.
#EndTheCageAge - European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)
In Europe hundreds of millions of animals spend their entire life in a cage. Cages keep animals isolated, or tightly packed in confined areas and prevent them from expressing their natural behaviours.
End the Cage Age is a European Citizens' Initiative aiming at eliminating all of these cages and giving pigs, hens, meat rabbits, ducks and quail a better life. The time has come for this generation to stand up and End the Cage Age. Sign the petition here.
The European Commission is aware of widespread violations to pig welfare legislation, and has recently decided to take a ‘soft’ approach to increase compliance with the ban on routine tail docking and the provision of environmental enrichment.
LIVE ANIMAL TRANSPORT
One million animals are transported every day in Europe, most of them for slaughter. Live animal transport, especially over long distances, is a major animal welfare concern. Animals are often exposed to stress during loading and unloading, and can suffer because of hunger, thirst, exhaustion, lack of space or rest. Transporting live animals also poses serious risks to animal health due to the possible spread of disease. Scientific evidence shows that the stress of transport weakens the immune system, making animals even more vulnerable to disease.
While we will always keep fighting to improve the current legislation to reduce and replace live animal transport, we also acknowledge that the existing rules need to be better enforced across the EU.
Read our #StopTheTrucks briefing.
The slaughter process is extremely stressful for the hundreds of millions of animals, and billions of poultry, that are killed for their meat in the EU each year. Between the farm and the time of their death, they are exposed to major risks of stress or suffering, even though legislation states that they must be spared any avoidable excitement or pain at any stage.
CAGE FREE FARMING
There are currently more than 380 million laying hens in the EU. A ban on traditional, unenriched battery cages has been in force since 2012 (Council Directive 1999/74). However, ‘enriched cages’ do not represent a kinder solution to conventional cages, in terms of animal welfare, as they still severely limit the hens’ ability to carry out natural behaviours.
We advocate for a shift towards free-range (barns with access to the outdoors) and organic systems to ensure more humane egg production, while accepting that some welfare issues will exist in all systems, and that much attention must be paid to proper management and genetics issues.
As part of our strategy to monitor global progress towards cage-free farming, we recently joined the Open Wing Alliance – an international coalition to end the caged farming of laying hens.
Intensive farming systems also affect rabbits – around 300 million rabbits are slaughtered each year in the EU, mostly in Italy, France and Spain. Rabbits are almost exclusively raised in intensive systems that deprive them of the possibility to perform many basic natural behaviours, and there is no specific EU regulation for rabbit farming. Mortality and morbidity are extremely high because housing conditions are detrimental to the health and longevity of the animals. Moreover, the industry suffers from a lack of research and modernisation. We believe that rabbit farming should be regulated, and therefore are advocating for the introduction of EU standards for their protection.
Cloning is a technique using artificial reproduction to create identical animals. EU consumers and citizens are against this technique to produce food, for a number of reasons:
- Animal cloning involves stressful handling of the animals used as mothers
- The process is inefficient, with very low rates of success (10% in cattle, 6% in pigs)
- Cloned animals are submitted to painful handling and suffer numerous health problems
- Farm animals are seen as commodities rather than sentient beings
The dairy sector is undergoing profound changes that are resulting in an increased rate of industrialisation. These changes are largely driven by the market, and with no specific legislation protecting the welfare of dairy cows, we see several negative consequences for animal welfare.
In many countries, dairy cows are increasingly kept in ‘zero-grazing’ systems where they are housed indoors for all or the vast majority of the year. Such cows are never or rarely allowed out to graze on pasture during the grass growing season.
This move to zero-grazing is taking place despite the conclusion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that: “If dairy cows are not kept on pasture for parts of the year, i.e. they are permanently on a zero-grazing system, there is an increased risk of lameness, hoof problems, teat tramp, mastitis, metritis, dystocia, ketosis, retained placenta and some bacterial infections.”
OIE have introduced new standards on dairy welfare.
SUSTAINABLE FOOD AND FARMING
Farmed animals are often treated simply as tools to maximise profit, with little regard for the sustainability of livestock farming practices or ethical considerations. We believe that higher standards of animal welfare must be more fully integrated into EU food and farming policies in order to better respect Article 13 Animal Sentience as enshrined in the EU treaty, and to contribute to improved sustainability of EU agriculture and rural areas.
In times of growing resource scarcity, environmental concerns and looming health threats, higher animal welfare standards can contribute to improved animal and public health, and greater resource efficiency.
INFORMATION TO CONSUMERS
The results of the latest Special Eurobarometer on Animal Welfare demonstrate without doubt that EU citizens care about farm animals and their welfare, and that they want better protection for them. Moreover, EU citizens look for higher-welfare labels when they shop.
Unfortunately, such labels are not available in all Member States, they differ in their standards, and they can be misleading.
At Eurogroup for Animals, we believe that a harmonised EU method of production labelling system for all animal products – similar to the one that we have in place for eggs – will be a major driver of better animal welfare.
In addition to supporting the voluntary farm assurance schemes of our member organisations, we are proud to partner with the Labelling Matters campaign, which calls on EU institutions to adopt mandatory methods of production.
GREEN PUBLIC PROCUREMENT AND RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS
Many private and public actions will be necessary to help ensure that consumers can get the information and access to products they need to make more responsible choices that better respect animal welfare. By adopting Green Public Procurement (GPP) to provide more ethical and environmentally responsible goods and services, the EU’s public authorities can deliver more sustainable consumption and production. We call on public authorities across the EU to only source animal products from farms that assure higher welfare standards, and to promote more plant-based foods in their public procurement policies.
We also call on retailers and other food chain actors to improve their Corporate Social Responsibility policies and sourcing strategies, to ensure improved respect for animal welfare.
In 2014, Eurogroup for Animals contributed to the development of the Retail Forum’s Issue Paper on Animal Welfare. This outlines opportunities and actions that retailers and food chain stakeholders can take now to improve respect for animal welfare in their sourcing and supply chain policies. This is a positive initiative that we support in principle, but we feel that food chain actors must go even further to address animal welfare concerns, and words must now be backed up by action.
We want to raise awareness at EU level about the need to improve the clarity, development and enforcement of higher animal welfare standards in organic farming. Currently these standards are underdeveloped and differ widely between EU member states.
Eurogroup for Animals is working to put fish welfare on the European policy map, creating visibility on the topic among EU decision makers (European Parliament, Council and Commission), while pursuing specific regulatory opportunities. As the evidence base on fish welfare issues continues to emerge, there is a long-term role to integrate it into the regulatory framework addressing animal welfare more broadly.
Elena NalonFarm Animals Programme Leader
Francesca PortaFarm Animals Programme Officer
Alice Di ConcettoFarm Animals Programme Officer
Douglas WaleyFish Welfare Programme Leader
Farm animals documents
- Pig welfare
- Live animal transport
- Dairy farming
- Sustainable food and farming
- Information to consumers
- Green public procurement and responsible business
- Organic farming
- Background of the Court of Justice judgments on live animal transport
- CAP - Position paper
- Slaughter without stunning - Position paper