While the Swiss Government has set high standards for the welfare of animals farmed in Switzerland, the hundreds of millions of animals fattened, transported and slaughtered abroad before entering the Swiss market don’t benefit from those same standards. This may change depending on the outcome of two upcoming food referenda, whereby Swiss citizens will vote to modify the constitution, requiring all imported food products to be safe, of good quality and produced respecting animals, the environment and decent work conditions. During a press conference entitled “Animal welfare means ‘Fair Food’” held in Bern on 14 September, Swiss Animal Protection gathered experts to discuss animal welfare, fair trade, local and sustainable economic models, and the consumers’ role in food production and farming.
With cheaper agricultural foreign goods entering the market, Swiss citizens and institutions are feeling the country’s high food and animal welfare standards are jeopardised. For this reason, a group of organisations among which Swiss Animal Protection are promoters of the constitutional initiative on “Fair Food” that would stop imports of products that are not produced respecting animals, the environment and decent work conditions. Swiss citizens are called to vote on this initiative on 23 September. In preparation for this important moment, on 14 September the Swiss Animal Protection organised a press conference in Bern during which four experts highlighted the main animal welfare issues and challenges currently faced by the European Union and more specifically by those countries from which Switzerland is importing most animal products.
Industrial breeding, battery cages, cruel long-distance transport, antimicrobial resistance , and ineffective controls were the main topics debated by the speakers during the press conference. Dr. Elena Nalon (Eurogroup for Animals – Farm Animals Veterinary Adviser) spoke about the main animal welfare issues associated with European farming practices. She also denounced the shortcomings of EU legislation on the protection of farmed animals and the difficulty in obtaining enforcement , of existing rules .
Martin Häusling MEP (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance) presented the risks for European farmers associated with the global food trade in the light of the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and the South American trade bloc Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay).
Samuel Airaud (Spokesperson for L214 Ethique et Animaux) stressed that, besides the necessary legislative changes, consumers have the responsibility to learn about the conditions of production of an industry that considers and treats animals as mere commodities.
Friedrich Mülln (SOKO Tierschutz – Animal rights activist) deplored the lack of enforcement and controls on animal welfare on farm and at slaughter.
All panelists agreed on the urgent need for a radical shift away from low-cost industrial livestock production and supported the establishment of frameworks aimed at protecting the animals and the environment in international trade agreements. It is hoped that with the upcoming food referenda Swiss citizens will send an important signal to Europe and the world for a clear commitment to equitable, environmentally and animal friendly products.