EU legislation on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence misses out on animal welfare
The Commission’s proposal lays down obligations only for big companies with more than 500 employees and a turnover of €150 million. The obligations and potential sanctions are about how the companies’ operations and value chains can have an “actual or potential human rights and environmental adverse impacts”.
The proposed mechanism would nevertheless apply to medium size companies (i.e. between 250 and 500 employees and more than €40 million worth of annual turnover) operating in high risk sectors. Interestingly, the high risk sectors, which are based on existing sectoral OECD due diligence guidance, cover among others “leather, [...] agriculture, fisheries (including aquaculture), the manufacture of food products, and the wholesale trade of agricultural raw materials, live animals, food, and beverages”.
Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the recognition of the above animal-based sectors as high-risk for human rights and environmental concerns, and calls for the introduction of a comprehensive due diligence mechanism explicitly encompassing animal welfare.
Indeed, animal welfare is closely linked to environmental protection and human rights as suggested in the annex of the proposed legislation mentioning the violations to human rights (i.e. Annex part I A, point 18 and 19). For instance, highly industrialised and intensive farming systems have devastating effects on the welfare of farmed animals, but they also lead to high levels of water, air and ground pollution, to deforestation and biodiversity loss.
Poor animal welfare is also linked to systemic human rights abuses troubling the global animal agriculture industry, including the abuse of farm and meat industry workers, child labour, and human slavery within the commercial fishing industry.
The upcoming legislation should explicitly recognise that the health and wellbeing of humans are inseparable from those of animals and the planet. Improving animal welfare by helping to reduce the risk of food-borne diseases and zoonoses and to lessen the use of antibiotics in animal productions, would benefit the right to health, which is a fundamental part of our human rights as recognised by the WHO. Improved animal welfare is also a leverage to fight the violations of human rights in the animal agriculture industry, and is a key element to deliver on the EU Green Deal and the Farm to Fork strategy, which calls for an urgent need to “improve animal welfare to achieve a fair transition towards sustainable food systems.Stephanie Ghislain, Trade and Animal Welfare Programme Leader, Eurogroup for Animals
Finally, including animal welfare in the scope of the future Corporate Sustainable Due Diligence legislation would be relevant and consistent with actual trends. Existing international standards already recommend companies faced with animal welfare risks to address them in their due diligence policy, and many companies - especially in the food and textile sectors - already include animal welfare in their due diligence efforts.
All eyes are now on the European Parliament and Member States to adopt a comprehensive Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence legislation responding to the high expectations of EU citizens and consumers.