Amber light for animal welfare in the Green Deal
Now, though, we’d like to see specific information and ambitious proposals on how the Deal will actually deliver for animals, particularly farmed animals in cruel, unsustainable systems.
The proposal was presented by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and First Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans and debated by MEPs at an extraordinary plenary sitting in Brussels today. With the aim of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent, the European Green Deal lays out a series of actions for the coming years that will contribute to the fight against climate change and other environmental concerns.
The Deal includes legislation to meet the EU’s 2050 Climate Neutrality target, as well as a strategy on the protection of biodiversity, the development of the circular economy, and the development of rural areas across the EU. This aligns with the persistent and growing demands – both from animal welfare advocates and from society at large – for a Europe that is more effective in delivering on farm animal welfare and wildlife conservation objectives.
The Deal’s ‘Farm-to-Fork’ strategy, for example, recognises the value of circular agriculture, which tries to minimize the use of external resources by relying on natural processes, producing resources locally and reusing waste streams, thus being more sustainable. Successful examples of circularity applied to farm animal agriculture include Kipster, a high welfare poultry farm in the Netherlands. The strategy also plans to identify innovative food and feed products, and increase and improve food information on origin, nutritional value and environmental footprint – potentially paving the way for method-of-production labelling, too.
As far as wildlife is concerned, the Deal states that EU wants to become a ‘global leader’ in consumer protection, which implies that a better regulation of the exotic pet trade through an EU-level Positive List for exotic pets would be supported. This trade, which at the moment is largely unregulated in the EU, represents a threat to the health of EU citizens, besides risks to biodiversity and the welfare of animals. The Deal will also set minimum requirements to prevent environmentally harmful products from being placed in the EU market – and even if the focus is on industrial products, this could also be applied to exotic pets.
However, we now call on the Commission to ensure that specific considerations will emerge in the Green Deal’s individual strategies and actions. To give just two examples: while it plans to draft national farming plans under the CAP, the Deal also needs to take stronger measures under the Common Fisheries Policy to ensure that national aquaculture development plans are truly sustainable and low-carbon through the prioritisation of low trophic species. Secondly, the Deal doesn’t mention animal welfare as a major contributor to climate neutrality in agriculture in its Farm-to-Fork strategy, not even as a societal concern – even though the livestock sector is a huge polluter, and that fewer animals and lower consumption should be key principles. Nor does it highlight the impact of intensive farming and overfishing on biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems.
Additionally, the Deal’s section on trade policy has no mention of the negative impact it can have on climate and the environment – only the positive contributions it could make. In fact, it will remain business as usual for trade, and therefore will hamper the implementation of the Green Deal.
Similarly, for wildlife, there’s no reference to zero tolerance for trafficking and to the need to renew and strengthen the EU Action Plan Against Wildlife Trafficking. It’s worrying, too, that the Green Deal states that the Commission will work to ‘facilitate’ the trade in environmental goods and services, while the 2019 Report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services clearly indicates that global biodiversity erosion is caused primarily by the direct exploitation of natural resources.
“The Green Deal’s Farm-to-Fork and Biodiversity strategies both represent an opportunity to contribute to some of our most urgent goals – to reduce livestock and shift towards higher level farming, and to tackle wildlife trafficking and achieve an EU Positive List of allowed exotic pets,” said Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals. “But animal welfare should not merely be a consequence of actions that are more focused on the environment or climate change; it should be an integral part of the plan, and one of the drivers for its own sake.”