EP urges EC to address impacts of intensive broiler farming
Early 2018, the European Commission published a much delayed and disappointing report to the Parliament and the Council acknowledging the absence of taking stock of the welfare impact resulting from the so-called Broilers Directive (2007/43/EC).
The Broiler Directive lays down minimum standards for the protection of chickens kept for meat production. Yet, the Commission’s recent implementation report failed to demonstrate any significant animal welfare improvements, and showed that enforcement is at best inconsistent across Member States.
The harsh reality for broiler chickens means they are reared by the tens of thousands in barren sheds, on wet litter, and without any possibility of expressing natural behaviours such as perching, pecking enrichment substrates, or enjoying natural light.
The Directive does not address the negative consequences on animal welfare that directly derive from selection for fast growth, a problem that has been stressed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as well as by a Commission report.
What emerged from today’s Parliament debate is that current intensive broiler farming is not only of concern for animal health and welfare, but poses also severe risks for public health, contributing to the antimicrobial resistance emergency. The poor and cramped living conditions often call for mass treatments with antibiotics to prevent or contain disease outbreaks, which threatens public health. Several strains of poultry pathogens capable of causing serious illness in humans are now showing resistance to antibiotics used in poultry production, as is the case for Campylobacter spp. and Salmonella spp.
MEPs also endorsed a recent Greenpeace report showing the massive impact of industrial poultry production (ammonia) on pollution of air, soil and water.
This initiative comes at a time when animal advocacy organisations across the world are stepping up efforts to raise awareness on the agony of broiler chickens and engage corporate leaders to take their responsibilities. Several global players such as Marks & Spencer, have already made ambitious commitments to impose higher broiler welfare on their supply chains.
Despite the vivid MEP criticism faced during the debate for lacking vigor in pursuing what is now perceived as extremely urgent change, Commissioner Bienkowska made three important commitments, reflecting Eurogroup for Animals’ earlier recommendations. She expressed her sympathy for the topic and agreed to develop more animal welfare indicators while incentivising higher welfare chicken farming systems through CAP subsidies. She also announced that the second EU reference centre on animal welfare would be dedicated to poultry welfare.
The Motion for Resolution, following an earlier oral question on which this debate took place, will be presented and voted in Plenary at the end of October 2018.
Francesca Porta, Programme Officer Farm Animals – firstname.lastname@example.org
Sophie de Jonckheere, Communication and Development Manager – tel: +32 2 7400822 email@example.com