EFSA new mandates on animal welfare legislation


EFSA new mandates on animal welfare legislation

30 July 2020
Last week, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) received five new mandates from the European (EU) Commission to inform the future revision of the animal welfare legislation, as part of the action plan of the Farm to Fork strategy.

The EFSA is the EU Agency dealing with food safety related issues, including the health and welfare of farmed animals. In the past six years we witnessed a drastic reduction in the outputs delivered by the Agency on this matter and we are now pleased to see that the EU Commission mobilised it to inform the Union legislative needs.

The mandates reflect the growing public concern around farm animal welfare, particularly in the use of cages in animal farming. Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the reference to the European Citizens’ Initiative (End the Cage Age) calling for an end to the use of such cages which was signed by more than 1.5 million citizens and supported by 170 organisations.

The work mandated to EFSA is part of the action plan of the Farm to Fork strategy. It is largely based  in three areas: welfare at transport, welfare at slaughter and welfare of animals kept for farming purposes that are already covered by species-specific directives: poultry (broilers and laying hens), pigs and calves. Please see our comprehensive analysis of the EFSA mandates here. EFSA will look into existing systems and assess associated hazards, possible animal welfare indicators to be used and provide recommendations for preventing or correcting the welfare consequences.

This is the start of a long journey of revising and, possibly, drafting new animal welfare legislation. Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the new EFSA mandates and believes that the EU Commission should improve existing animal welfare legislation, enlarging their scope, but also draft new species-specific legislation to better protect farmed fish species, dairy cows and rabbits. Eurogroup for Animals trusts  the EU Commission will also take these animals’ interests into account as part of the ongoing fitness check process. 

The agreed deadlines for the publishing of the EFSA opinions are the following: Welfare during Transport and Welfare of Pigs - June 2022; Welfare of Broilers and Laying Hens - December 2022; Welfare of Calves - March 2023

Details on the mandates extracted from EFSA’s website:

On the welfare of animals during transport, which will cover six groups of animals: equids (horses, donkeys); bovines (cattle and calves); small ruminants (sheep and goats); pigs; domestic birds; and rabbits. For each group, EFSA will provide a comprehensive breakdown of existing transport practices and address specific subjects such as: describing the relevant welfare consequences during each step of the transport process; defining animal-based measures for assessing the welfare consequences during transport; Identifying the hazards leading to these welfare consequences; Providing recommendations to prevent, mitigate or correct the welfare consequences.

On the welfare of animals at slaughter. EFSA has almost completed its series of assessments looking at welfare aspects of the slaughter of animals for human consumption and on-farm killing for other purposes (e.g. disease and population control). Opinions have been published on poultry (2019), as well as rabbits (January 2020) and pigs (June 2020). Additional opinions on cattle are due later in 2020. These  opinions identify hazards, animal-based measures and preventive and corrective measures for each step of the slaughter process, from arrival of the animals at the slaughterhouse and unloading from the truck, to waiting in lairage, stunning and bleeding.

Welfare of animals kept for farming purposes. These opinions will consider welfare of poultry (laying hens and chickens reared for meat), pigs and calves. For each category of animals, an opinion will describe current husbandry systems and practices; identify relevant hazards, welfare consequences and associated animal-based measures; and provide recommendations for preventing or correcting the welfare consequences.



Francesca Porta, Farmed Animals Programme Officer


1.  The EFSA very recently released scientific opinions on the welfare of rabbits on farm, during slaughter and killing operations; the welfare of poultry at slaughter and during on farm killing; the welfare of pigs during slaughter and killing operations, A scientific opinion on welfare of bovine during slaughter and killing operations is expected to be published towards the end of 2020.
2.  https://ec.europa.eu/food/sites/food/files/animals/docs/aw_platform_20200615_pres-02.pdf - Slide 10