The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment votes for a more humane CAP


The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment votes for a more humane CAP

18 February 2019
On February 14, the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment (ENVI Committee) voted its report on the CAP legislation, adopting amendments to the Commission’s proposal for the new CAP that are particularly favorable to farm animal welfare. If passed, these provisions could represent a game changer for animals used for food in Europe.

More safeguards in the distribution of agricultural subsidies

The ENVI Committee adopted a series of amendments aiming to exclude intensive livestock producers from the list of beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies. The Committee voted to reduce the density of farms for which beneficiaries receive subsidies referred to as “coupled support” in the CAP legislation, which mostly go to beef, veal, and dairy producers. Density (also called “stocking density” or “livestock density”) refers to the number of animals kept on a given space: the higher a stocking density is, the less space individual animals have.

This measure would ensure that producers who receive subsidies do not keep their animals in extreme confinement, as subsidies  are suspected to incentivize the proliferation of heavily industrialized, and intrinsically cruel, methods of production. The ENVI committee also included an objective to reduce the livestock density on farms (result indicators, Annex I of the proposal).

The Committee additionally voted to make industrial farm animal production ineligible for rural development funds for modernizing their farms (Pillar II). These funds are often used to build state-of-the-art factory farms at lower costs, which is also thought to be a major driver of the spread of industrialized farming in Europe.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations: CAFOs

Another important measure for animals was the adoption of a regulatory definition for “Concentrated Feeding Operations” (CAFOs). A term originating from US law, CAFOs  are large facilities that warehouse thousands of animals in extreme confinement and in unnatural conditions until the animals reach the intended weight for slaughter. The main objective of CAFOs, as the name indicates, is to feed animals in preparation for large-scale, systematic food production purposes. Under the new definition provided by the ENVI Committee, CAFOs would designate buildings where animals are confined and deprived of outdoor access.

Enhanced farm animal welfare provisions

Member of the ENVI Committee also enhanced the standards for farm animal welfare required in the CAP. Adopted amendments specifically included all the poultry directives and the regulation on slaughter (for animals killed on farms) to the potentially powerful mechanism of “conditionality” (previously referred to as “cross-compliance”; Annex III of the proposal). Conditionality requires that all beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies should submit to inspections to show they comply with a set of EU regulations on animal welfare.

MEPs further included an objective to  reduce the number of violations and a better overview of animal welfare measures undertaken by Member States in the course of implementing the CAP.

What’s next?

The ENVI Committee shares competence with the Committee on Agriculture (AGRI Committee) to vote the CAP legislation. The AGRI Committee is scheduled to vote its own report (i.e. its list of amendments to the Commission’s proposal issued last June) in March, as MEPs hope to make it in time for a vote in the plenary before the elections. Although the AGRI Committee remains the leading committee on the CAP legislation, one can hope that it will take into account the progressive amendments voted in the ENVI Committee’s report. In any case, it’s encouraging for animal advocates to see such meaningful measures making it so far into the legislative process.

Alice Di Concetto, Programme Officer – Farm Animals
Tel. +32 (0)2 207 77 11 |