The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the one piece of legislation which most affects the lives of the 7 billion farm animals raised and slaughtered each year in the EU, is not designed to enshrine animal welfare at the heart of farming practices.
In 1962, the six founding Member States of the European Economic Community vowed to restore Europe’s capacity to feed itself through the creation of the Common Agricultural Policy, or CAP. Very quickly, the CAP was successful in achieving food security, so much so that as early as the 1970s farmers were over-producing food.
Although the CAP has undergone several reforms aiming to adapt its agricultural support systems to evolving challenges, these reforms have failed to deliver results in transitioning to a more sustainable agriculture and away from intensive production methods. Quite the opposite, in fact: the CAP has incentivised the intensification of agriculture across Europe.
The predominant business model has become that of the so-called factory farm, where extreme confinement of animals and selective breeding programmes, which place unnecessary strain on animals’ physiology, are the norm. Such intensive farming also entails excessive use of antibiotics and environmental pollution, as well as inferior labour conditions for workers along the production chain.
Such an orientation in policy stands in sharp contrast with the overwhelming commitment of EU citizens towards farm animal welfare, as well as the societal demand for a CAP which is more effective in delivering on farm animal welfare objectives.
Allowing and even incentivising cruel farming practices to occur at the taxpayers’ expense is unfair to animals, consumers and even farmers. Farmers receiving any type of public support from the CAP should at the very least comply with EU animal welfare laws, immediately end any practices which require the extreme confinement of animals, and shift toward more diffuse farming systems.
WHAT DOES THE PUBLIC THINK?
The European Union’s citizenry stands behind better animal welfare for farm animals. A special Eurobarometer about the attitudes of Europeans towards animal welfare revealed that 94% think protecting the welfare of farm animals is important, and 82% think farm animals should be better protected than they are now.
By its close in September 2019, 1,617,405 citizens had signed the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative, making it the biggest political push in farm animal welfare history.
POLICY - CURRENT STATE OF PLAY
A 2018 European Court of Auditors report on animal welfare within the EU demonstrated that EU actions did not consistently comply with minimum animal welfare standards, and that more CAP resources could contribute to better animal welfare standards. One of the biggest problems is that access to CAP payments does not depend on farmers’ compliance with the full spectrum of welfare requirements for farm animals.
Early November 2020 both the Parliament and the Council adopted their positions and now the negotiations between the institutions (trilogue) are ongoing with the aim to reach a compromise.
Actions relating to CAP, also relate to the regulation establishing a Common Organisation of the Markets (CMOs) in agricultural products (2018/0218 COD). Eurogroup for Animals, together with other NGOs have managed for bans on widely accepted meat terms , such as “veggie burger” or “plant-based steak”, didn’t go beyond the European Parliament. Nevertheless, the fight still goes on, since a ban on dairy products is now being discussed in the trilogue negotiations , such as “yoghurt style”, “alternative to cheese” or “butter substitute” to describe plant-based dairy alternatives.
The new CAP is scheduled to enter into force by 2021 at the earliest. Crucially, the effectiveness of the new CAP will largely depend on the Member States’ commitment to include animal welfare as a priority in their strategic plans.
What we want
It is imperative that the European Union revise the CAP to ensure that high animal welfare is one of its core principles, and that funding is redirected towards projects that are in line with taxpayers’ and consumers’ choices. Eurogroup for Animals will influence a better implementation of policy tools meant to ensure compliance with basic farm animal welfare rules, as well as more effective measures to promote more humane practices on European farms.
Eurogroup will also lobby for the COMs regulation to still allow for the related terms and the meat term to be used on alternatives to meat and other animal products.