Estonian Presidency’s programme: More questions than answers for animal welfare
As the start of a new Trio of Presidencies (along with Bulgaria and Austria), this programme will help to set a general direction in these areas for the next 18 months.
The Presidency’s draft programme is based around three central priorities: Combating the spread of anti-microbial resistance; the prevention, preparedness, containment and eradication of transboundary animal diseases, and; securing a political agreement on the legislative proposals on Veterinary Medicinal Products and medicated feed.
This Presidential Trio comes at a crucial time for animal welfare at EU level. Over the next two years, a raft of delegated and implementing acts will be adopted via the Animal Health Law and Official Controls Regulation, many of which could advance or hinder animal welfare. Alongside these, we will see the designation of new Union Reference Centres for Animal Welfare, in addition to work that will be taken on within the new EU Platform for Animal Welfare.
Commenting on the draft programme, Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals, said:
“Despite some warm words here and there, there are more questions than answers for animal welfare. For instance, the language around combating transboundary animal diseases is vague at best. What actions are actually foreseen to tackle the likes of Blue Tongue, Avian Influenza, Lumpy Skin Disease and African Swine Fever, outside of those currently being undertaken? Surveillance alone will not improve welfare. What we need are increased biosecurity measures, amended housing provisions and vaccination regimes where possible.”
Eurogroup for Animals, along with six of its Member Organisations sits on the new EU Platform for Animal Welfare, and the draft strategy states that the Presidency commits to ‘supporting and supplementing’ activities undertaken within this new forum. “It is not clear how this can or would work, particularly when the Presidency of the Council has no defined role within the platform itself.“ added Ms Hameleers. “Moreover, whilst the programme specifically mentions animal welfare during transport in this regard, it should be noted that workstreams have not yet been decided for the platform, and no sub groups have been announced. More worrying is that special mention is made of ‘long journey’ transport, which is something that Eurogroup for Animals and several Member States, in addition to many Members of the European Parliament, wish to see limited.”
More than anything, it is the lack of ambition that is striking in this programme. The last Trio, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Malta, all had animal welfare firmly within their agendas and led on subjects proactively, advancing key causes, and most notably, realising the establishment of the platform itself. Eurogroup for Animals commends them for their work in this regard. A similar level of ambition for the current presidency could be used to drive conversations on the role of animal welfare in international trade, to foster a new European strategy on the replacement, reduction and refinement of testing on animals or to seek to phase out the routine mutilation of farm animals.
“Estonian citizens, like other Europeans, clearly wish to see more done to protect animal welfare, both at national and European levels. 95% interviewed in last year’s special Eurobarometer on animal welfare thought that the protection of farm animals was important. Similarly 74% want to see the EU do more to promote a greater awareness of animal welfare internationally, and over half would be willing to pay more for products sourced from animal welfare production systems. We now hope that the Presidency will take note of the concern of its own citizens, will demonstrate how some of their plans above will advance animal welfare in detail, and above all will undertake specific additional actions in a proactive manner. Until then, we are left with more questions than answers.”
Joe Moran, Political Adviser, Eurogroup for Animals, Email: email@example.com, Tel: +32 2 740 08 26
Lucy Mathieson, Communications Officer, Eurogroup for Animals, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +32 2 740 08 25