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EU to ramp up animal welfare with plans to clamp down on journey times, space allowance and intensive farming


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21 Apr 2023 — The European Commission (EC) is on track to revise all animal welfare legislation. The newly proposed measures are based on scientific recommendations from the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA).

In its leaked Farm to Fork Strategy, the EC recognizes that “Societal demands are not met, but the trend is clear: many EU citizens pay increasing attention to animal welfare,” it states. 

The proposals are expected by late September. However, the details of the Impact Assessment (IA) working document, as revealed by Agra Facts, are promising for the billions of animals involved.

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Ethical concerns are also raised against the systematic slaughtering of male one-day-old chicks, for example, and against long-distance animal transports and fur farming. In addition, most EU citizens expect more sustainable food production, i.e., less intensive farming and breeding systems.

The impact assessment looks at 18 measures to improve the welfare of kept animals, including journey times, space allowance and the banning of mutilations. 

Serious welfare issues spotlighted 
Eurogroup for Animals welcomes measures to phase out of cages, ban the systematic culling of male chicks and slaughter practices like water baths and CO2 for poultry and pigs. 

The organization also recognizes that the EC acknowledges the severe welfare issues around fur farming and says it is considering the 1.7 million voices calling for a Fur Free Europe. 

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Healthy Chickens Free To RoamEurogroup for Animals represents over eighty animal protection organizations in almost all EU member states, the UK, Switzerland, Serbia, Norway, and Australia.According to Eurogroup, the final IA still has a long road to go before the actual proposals are adopted and it is calling on the Regulatory Scrutiny Board and Interservice Consultation to improve the recommendations, mainly with regards to shortening transition times to phase out cages and tightening the rules on live animal transport. 

“This is a good start and reflects the decades of citizens campaigning and scientific evidence produced in the EU. In light of the results of the IA, the EC must seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity and come forward with strong legislation that effectively improves the welfare of animals in Europe and globally. Ambitious legislation will benefit animals, citizens and farmers alike”, comments Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals.

Animal welfare in the headlines 
There has been a flurry of developments across industry outlining measures taken to ensure animal welfare is being examined. 

Earlier this week, FoodIngredientsFirst reported that animal protection campaigners are increasing pressure on the Canary Islands government and EC to block Nueva Pescanova’s construction of the world’s first industrial octopus farm after exposed company documents reinforced fears of cruelty and environmental exploitation

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Recent recommendations published in a scientific opinion by EFSA also support revising the EU’s animal welfare legislation. Veal calves should now be housed in small groups during their first weeks of life and individual pens should be avoided to improve their welfare. Calves also need sufficient space to rest and play and access comfortable bedding. EFSA’s scientists said long-cut fibrous feed such as hay should be provided to calves from the age of two weeks onward and gradually increased over time. 

EFSA also published urgent recommendations to improve the welfare of farmed broiler chickens and laying hens. The assessments call for widespread improvements for farmed chickens, notably discontinuing cage use and mutilation while providing improved environments.

In January, the world’s largest single-building pig farm was constructed in China’s Hubei province in a move that critics warn could result in the next global pandemic and undermine climate change policy, animal welfare and workers’ rights. The facility reportedly can slaughter around 1.2 million pigs annually. 

Edited by Elizabeth Green

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