European citizens’ expectations ride high, as animal welfare acquis shown not to be fit for purpose


European citizens’ expectations ride high, as animal welfare acquis shown not to be fit for purpose

31 March 2022
The European Commission has published their summary report of the contributions made by citizens, industry, public authorities and civil society organisations to the consultation on the future of animal welfare law in Europe, with the results showing a widespread desire for radical improvement, a desire for more information, and a furthering of protection to more species.

In October last year, the European Commission opened a landmark public consultation, asking citizens, farmers, businesses, Member State authorities and NGOs for their views and experiences on the fitness of the current rules relating to the welfare of animals in the EU, and to seek views on how they could be improved.

Nearly six months later, and with just under 60,000 responses in, we have the results, courtesy of the summary report (at bottom of page), which show:

  • A clear majority agreed that a revision of the current acquis is needed, that species are not protected equally, that more information is needed as well as better and easier enforcement
  • Majority support for the inclusion of more species within the scope of the legislation
  • Overwhelming support for a cage-free Europe 
  • A clear desire to see the end of waterbath stunning, the killing of day-old chicks and for new specific rules for the killing of farmed fish
  • An overriding wish from citizens to see max journey times for animals who are transported, a ban on live exports to third countries, and ban on the transport of unweaned calves
  • Massive support for an animal welfare label which also includes information on if or how animals have been transported and slaughtered, respectively.

It is these results that will now form the basis of the impact assessments that the Commission will draft for the new legislative proposals that will be adopted, most likely as a package, in the winter of 2023.

These results are very welcome, of course, but are no great surprise. “The organisations we represent day in, day out, have felt the weight of citizens’ expectations for change – for improvement – for years. I am only pleased that we now have clear signals that cannot be ignored. Vox populi, vox dei.

That the response rate was one of the highest ever seen by the Commission speaks volumes. We now expect the European Commission to quench the thirst for systemic change that flows through these results. The time for ambition is now. 

Whilst we expect proposals containing a swift phase out of caged systems, following the stunning success of the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative, we now expect a similar level of intent when it comes to ending live exports from the Union, to ending routine castration for pigs, waterbath stunning, the killing of day old chicks, and new powers to afford proper legal protection to the billions of other animals in Europe who deserve better, whether they be cattle, fish, poultry or pets. The citizens have spoken. Now it is time to honour their wishes.

Reineke Hameleers, Chief Executive of Eurogroup for Animals

Summary report