Improvements needed ahead of Council meetings to ensure consumer confidence in organic farming
Earlier this year the European Commission published the long awaited proposal for a new Regulation on organic farming and production (2014/0100 (COD)). The proposal, which could replace Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 following a period of transition, aims to improve the existing legislation on organic production to better support its sustainable development, guarantee fair competition for farmers and operators, and maintain consumer confidence in organic products. But will the proposal really help reach its objective?
Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals, does not think so. “We have completed a comprehensive analysis of the proposal, which shows that the draft legislation falls drastically short of protecting animal welfare at all stages of production and therefore cannot ensure consumer confidence of organic animal products across the EU in its current form. The majority of shortcomings that exist in current legislation on organic farming are being perpetuated in the future organic framework that is proposed. Our concerns about animal welfare must be immediately addressed in the context of the review now underway in the Parliament and at Council level. We are worried that expert discussions may be progressing too rapidly at Council level, and that this could lead to a neglect of animal welfare considerations. We urge EU stakeholders that care about animals to immediately voice their concerns.”
Whilst Eurogroup for Animals is very supportive of organic farming as a system that can benefit the welfare of animals, it is concerned that the existing legislation and the new proposal contain several gaps that must be addressed, including exceptions to higher animal welfare standards that allow for poor practices such as avoidable castration and tethering to be conducted. Ill-defined provisions for transport and slaughter have also not been addressed by the proposal. Detailed rules for some livestock species, such as rabbits, are still missing. Other existing rules for species, including calves and sows, are inadequate.
“Unfortunately, the fight to improve the Commission’s proposal will be an uphill battle”, continued Ms Hameleers, “since several economically vested stakeholders want to maintain flexibility in organic legislation that would allow for existing exceptions to animal welfare related provisions and ill-defined management standards to be maintained.” Eurogroup for Animals has expressed concern about this development and is seeking the support of EU decision makers to take action.
“At a time when the demand for organic products is increasing and consumer awareness of and interest in animal welfare is also on the rise, it would be absolutely absurd for EU decision makers not to use this moment to ensure improved harmonization and enforcement of higher animal welfare standards in organic farming to benefit animals and consumers that care. Rather than perpetuate the poor animal management practices of those farmers that do not meet higher standards, the regulation and any proposed policy actions should be actively supporting the universal attainment of higher standards in organic animal farming that safeguard the principles of organic farming,” she concluded.
At a time when the demand for organic products is increasing and consumer awareness of and interest in animal welfare is also on the rise, it would be absolutely absurd for EU decision makers not to use this moment to ensure improved harmonization and enforcement of higher animal welfare standards in organic farming to benefit animals and consumers that care.Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals