All the species not covered by legislation

Specific animal welfare legislation does not exist at present for certain species.

This translates to hundreds of millions of terrestrial farmed animals only being protected by the general provisions of Directive 98/58/EC, also known as the ‘General Farm Animals Directive’.

Species that are not covered include dairy and beef cattle of at least six months old, sheep and goats, broiler and laying hen parent birds, pullets, turkeys, ducks and geese, quails, farmed fish, farmed rabbits or dogs and cats.

Although this Directive rightly states that “farmers must 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”, an EC report shows that generic rules are not easy to enforce in practice. 

Reports show that the welfare of dairy cattle is not sufficiently monitored and that serious problems persist, including lameness, mastitis, cubicle design, flooring, cleanliness, and permanent tethering. The increasing proportion of cows that are never allowed to graze and high milk yields is also reason for concern. Dairy cows are only covered by the General Farm Animals Directive, with the exception of the Calves Directive, which, among other provisions, prohibits the use of confined individual pens for calves after the age of eight weeks.

The Broiler Directive excludes smaller farms and establishments that breed parent stock, despite an EFSA opinion that states that stimuli such as perches and raised nest boxes are beneficial for the welfare of broilers kept for breeding.

Similarly, the Laying Hen Directive does not cover flocks with fewer than 350 hens, pullets (young hens before they start laying), breeding flocks or other species of poultry.

The welfare of farmed fish is covered by EU legislation only during rearing, transport and slaughter. The welfare of wild-caught fish is not covered at all.

Though cats and dogs are some of the most commonly kept animals in Europe - an estimated 99 million and 65 million respectively - there is no species-specific welfare legislation to protect them in EU law.

Ducks and geese, farmed for meat and particularly foie gras, are not protected by species-specific provisions. 

Similarly, turkeys have no legislative protection, despite, in the words of Jonathan Safran Foer, suffering practises “just about as bad as anything humans have ever done to any animal in the history of the world” (Eating Animals, 2009, Little Brown).

Rabbits are the second most numerous farmed terrestrial animals in the EU, with more than 340 million reared for slaughter each year.

The industry is outdated, and rabbits are kept almost exclusively in wire cages, without any opportunity to express normal behaviour. 

FORCE-FEEDING IN FOIE GRAS PRODUCTION BEGINS WHEN BIRDS ARE

8

WEEKS OLD

52%

OF EU CITIZENS THINK PROTECTING THE WELFARE OF FARMED ANIMALS IS IMPORTANT

MORE THAN

230m

RABBITS ARE REARED FOR SLAUGHTER EACH YEAR

WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC THINK?

The 2016 Eurobarometer on animal welfare showed that 94% of EU citizens think protecting the welfare of farmed animals is important, and 82% think they should be better protected by the EU than they are now.

A Eurogroup for Animals poll showed that humane slaughter (89% of respondents), the ability to act out natural behaviours (94%), and access to clean water (95%) are understood to be imperative for fish welfare. 

A seven-country survey revealed that an overwhelming majority of respondents feel that chickens should be healthy (90%), subject to a clean environment (89%), and be slaughtered humanely (86%).

A 2018 survey in France by Eurogroup for Animals’ Member Organisation L214 demonstrated that 60% of respondents were in favoUr of a ban on force-feeding ducks and geese for the production of foie gras, compared to 44% in 2009.

POLICY - CURRENT STATE OF PLAY

So far, the EC has been very reluctant to introduce new rules for the welfare of farmed animals under the Better Regulation policy agenda. The EP has traditionally been more sensitive, and pilot projects on dairy cows and laying hens starting in 2020 will produce best practice guidelines for dairy cattle and laying hens respectively. 

In 2017 the EP voted in favour of an own initiative report asking for a substantial change in the way rabbits are farmed for meat in the EU. The Parliament also adopted a crucial amendment requiring the European Commission to come up with a legislative proposal on minimum standards for the protection of farmed rabbits. 

In 2018 the EP adopted a Resolution urging the European Commission to improve the welfare of broiler chickens not only for the sake of the animals, but also to reduce the sector’s use of antibiotics, which is increasingly threatening human health.

We would like the EC to pass legislation that covers all farmed species, including fish, based on the latest scientific information and current best practise, and supported by robust animal-based indicators

There should also be more capacity to enforce these rules in the Member States.

Meanwhile, all the issues facing farmed species that are not protected by specific legislation will need to be addressed as a matter of priority in future EU guides to good practice and, eventually, legislation. To demonstrate compliance with the only legislation that currently covers these species, Article 3 of Directive 98/58/EC should be enforced more systematically and strictly by the competent authorities of all Member States.