The European Commission is to propose a comprehensive animal welfare law and reinforce current actions, in its four-year Animal Welfare Strategy. This falls well short of the expectations of Compassion in World Farming (Compassion), which calls the document: “…too cautious and lacking ambition”, adding that controversial issues like long-distance transport and cloning are totally absent from the strategy.
“This new strategy is welcome in its commitment to improving animal welfare in the EU,” concedes Compassion’s chief policy adviser, Peter Stevenson. “However, it has some disappointing omissions that represent a lost opportunity to improve conditions for Europe’s farm animals.”
Compassion sees progress in transparency and labelling, as well as investigating fish farming. But some major issues have been sidestepped: “We think the lack of commitment to improving dairy cow welfare is extremely worrying. As we’ve seen in the UK recently, the threat of industrial dairy farming is very real and we need safeguards to stop dairy cows from becoming victims of factory farming and in particular to halt the move towards mega-dairies and zero grazing,”
Scottish National Party MEP Alyn Smith welcomed the opportunity to build on the original 2006 strategy document. “I am relieved to hear Commissioner Dalli stress the importance of improving enforcement of the existing legislation,” Alyn observed.
However, in a price-obsessed system, investments in welfare are not always seen as added value, nor does it always earn a price that reflects the additional resources required. “Even as the official Commission document says, the market does not provide sufficient economic incentives for compliance as it is, so further demands must be realistic and cost-effective,” Smith added.
ARC has also spoken to Compassion about the complaint they made against the UK’s Red Tractor farmers’ label promoting itself as a welfare label in a national poster campaign last autumn. Read more here.