New EFSA Scientific Opinions: first glimpse of scientific basis for improved welfare of dairy cows, ducks, geese, and quail


New EFSA Scientific Opinions: first glimpse of scientific basis for improved welfare of dairy cows, ducks, geese, and quail

24 May 2023
We welcome EFSA’s new Scientific Opinions and recommendations on dairy cows, quail, duck and geese welfare, all of whom lack species-specific protection despite millions of these animals being farmed in the EU.

The new EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) Scientific Opinions on dairy cows and ducks, geese and quail will form the basis of species-specific provisions in the EU’s upcoming revised animal welfare legislation, providing much needed protection for these overlooked species.

Welfare of ducks, geese and quail on farm

Best practices for the farming of these species are not widely disseminated yet and a common understanding of high welfare standards is lacking, hence the importance of outlining the current practices, available science and drawing recommendations for improved animal welfare outcomes. The opinion is composed of 3 parts: (1) description of husbandry systems currently used in the EU, (2) analysis of the main animal welfare consequences (restriction of movement, injuries, group stress and inability to perform comfort behaviour related to these husbandry systems) and (3) recommendations to prevent the negative welfare consequences listed in point (2).

EFSA is clear on the need to step away from cages for all farmed species, including both individual and group systems. The mandate didn’t cover force-feeding for foie gras, but EFSA still highlighted that all husbandry systems used in foie gras production should be avoided due to their severe impact on animal welfare. Space allowance should be increased and there must be possibilities for water bathing, a need all waterfowl have strongly pronounced. Outdoor access is strongly advised and if not possible, birds should have at least a covered veranda. A range of additional enrichment measures are also recommended, including enough nesting material to build nests and perches when relevant according to the needs of the species.

EFSA recognises there is still a large knowledge gap in the available scientific literature for these species. We regret that a clear recommendation on the need to have access to outdoor areas is not present in the opinion, however, we still consider the document a positive development in the journey towards better protection for ducks, geese and quail - species that have so far received insufficient attention. We are looking forward to progressive legislation that takes into account the needs of ducks, geese and quails and prioritises their welfare. 

Read EFSA’s Scientific Opinion on “Welfare of ducks, geese and quail on farm“.

Welfare of dairy cows

This Scientific Opinion is composed of 3 parts: (1) mapping and assessment of dairy farm housing systems in the EU, (2) analysis of the main animal welfare consequences (lameness, mastitis, restriction of movement, resting and comfort behaviours and metabolic diseases) and (3) assessment of possible indicators to identify potentially risky farms in term of animal welfare level.

Through the opinion the severe animal welfare consequences of tethered systems are exposed. From restriction of movement to restriction of the performance of comfort and social behaviours, this type of housing is deemed unsuitable and the necessity to end it is stated. 

Pasture access is featured as having a positive impact on movement and expression of natural behaviours as well as improving hoof health. Nevertheless, the report shows these systems have severely declined in number across the EU in the last years. We regret that there isn’t a clear statement in the report highlighting pasture based systems as the best for animal welfare (when comparing well managed systems).

We also welcome the recommendation for 9 or more m2/ per cow in indoor systems, and the need to further assess and use animal based indicators to detect potential risk farms in terms of animal welfare. 

It is time for the European Commission to take a stance for dairy cows and provide them with a good quality of life, through the revision of the animal welfare legislation. 

Read EFSA’s Scientific Opinion on “Welfare of dairy cows“.