European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee neglects major animal welfare concerns in EU organic farming
Eurogroup for Animals is very disappointed by yesterday’s vote in the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee adopting its report on the Commission’s proposal for a new EU regulation on organic farming. Initially a legislative review that held much promise for addressing widespread shortcomings in EU organic legislation affecting millions of farm animals, this outcome shows that even the Parliament, which has been a forerunner of supporting animal welfare improvements, has prioritised business as usual in the food chain at the expense of animal welfare, with potentially long term risks for maintaining consumer confidence in organic animal products. Whereas organic farming often meets higher animal welfare standards than conventional systems, various exceptions and ill-defined provisions still allow for poor welfare practices, like painful mutilations and long distance transport, to continue on some organic farms and along the food chain.
The vote, which took place despite serious procedural concerns raised by some MEPs, who felt the process had been rushed including changes to the voting list at the very last minute, now clears the way for informal negotiations to begin with the European Council and the Commission. Although normally a Committee position is first approved in plenary before commencing trialogue negotiations, the Parliament’s rapporteur for this file has now been given the mandate to informally seek a first reading agreement with the other EU institutions. Almost certainly these negotiations will now fall short of citizen expectations and not guarantee higher standards of animal welfare.
“Sadly, short term interests are being prioritised at the expense of animals, and unfortunately these instances have now become the norm across most sectors”, said Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals. “The revision of the organic legislation had the potential to stop painful practices like tethering and mutilations on organic farms and to decrease transport times for organically raised farm animals. These major concerns have not been adequately tackled by the Parliament. It is now clear that there are systemic shortcomings with regard to animal welfare across the positions of all three institutions, showing a dire need for more dialogue and action to improve animal welfare, both in organic farming and across all agricultural systems. EU organic farming legislation should lead the way with systems that truly respect animal sentience, but it is now becoming yet another symptom of a broken system that only pays lip service to animal welfare, without even meeting its basic obligations under Article 13 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union.”
“Despite some detailed improvements in the Parliament’s position with regard to improving species-specific rules in organic farming and supporting the use of adapted breeds, which we will continue to support, we now know that this revision will fall short of expectations. This is simply unacceptable given the European Commission’s stated aims that the proposed legislation is meant to maintain consumer confidence and improve the longer term sustainability and competitiveness of the sector. It is time for the Commission to live up to its promises and truly act for animals across all farming sectors and systems. The Commission must, as guardian of the EU Treaty, ensure respect for animal welfare requirements and move swiftly to stop mutilations and long distance transport. This is now even more important at a time when increased trade and globalisation is likely to put additional pressure on farmers to lower animal welfare standards,” concluded Ms Hameleers.
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The Commission must, as guardian of the EU Treaty, ensure respect for animal welfare requirements and move swiftly to stop mutilations and long distance transport.Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals