Paper on the protection of dairy cattle in the EU: State of play and directions for policymaking from a legal and animal advocacy perspective
2 December 2019
With the exception of a detailed Directive for calves, the welfare of dairy cattle is not regulated by species-specific legislation in the European Union.
Their basic protection falls under the provisions of Directive 98/58/EC, also known as the “General Farm Animals Directive”. Article 3 of this Directive states: “Member States shall make provision to ensure that the owners or keepers take all reasonable steps to ensure the welfare of animals under their care and to ensure that those animals are not caused any unnecessary pain, suffering or injury”. However, recent reports show that the welfare of dairy cows in the EU is not sufficiently monitored and that serious problems persist. Lameness, mastitis, cubicle design, flooring, cleanliness, and permanent tethering remain critical areas. We argue that, to demonstrate compliance with Article 3 of Directive 98/58, farmers and Member States should urgently address these issues. The increasing proportion of cows that are never allowed to graze and high milk yields are also reasons for concern and will need to be addressed as a matter of priority in future EU guides to good practice and, eventually, legislation.