The European Parliament voted last week to support an important resolution drafted by Marit Paulsen MEP on the European Union Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015.
The resolution called for animal welfare rules to be pulled together in a single EU-wide animal welfare law, with new rules for all farmed animals, including dairy cows, as well as stray cats and dogs and other domestic pets.
Mrs Paulsen also recommended an "early intervention" system to allow the European Commission to check that member states are making progress towards the implementation of new legislation. In some areas, the lack of “legal milestones” during long transitional periods has led to a lack of compliance. Most recently, even a 13-year lead-in could not ensure that all member states implemented Council Directive 1999/74/EC on the protection of laying hens in time. Barren battery cages continued in use well after the deadline for replacement. Not only was this bad for animal welfare, it placed burdens on those states where producer compliance was good and where producers, as well as the public, then had to be protected from the trade in “illegal eggs”.
There is now a real risk that the same thing will happen with Council Directive 2008/120/EC on the protection of pigs, and the Cosmetics Directive 76/768/EEC.
The Paulsen report highlighted further compliance issues to do with the protection of animals at the time of slaughter or killing. At present, poorly applied and enforced legislation allows consumers to be misled into buying meat without knowing whether animals have been slaughtered without pre-stunning – a horrific and unnecessary way to end an animal’s life. Responding to continued complaints from EU citizens, MEPs asked the Commission to consider creating a "slaughter without stunning" label for meat to help consumers to make more informed choices.
The Parliament called for member states to employ more trained animal welfare inspectors and for the EU Food and Veterinary Office to have more resources for its inspection work; and stressed that equivalent welfare standards should apply to all imported animals and products.
The Animal Welfare Strategy was published following an evaluation of 20 years of animal welfare policy which concluded that current rules needed to be better enforced and that some animal groups currently outside the scope of EU protection – such as dairy cows and pets – could benefit from harmonised EU laws. Regrettably, the original Strategy did not address these concerns. It opened the door to better welfare provision for companion animals, but other high profile issues such as live animal transport, the cloning of animals for food and animal testing for cosmetics were not even mentioned.
Fortunately the animals have a doughty champion in Mrs Paulsen, who compiled a robust report and did not hesitate to point out that the EU has legal obligations towards animals:
“... policy coherence follows from Article 7 of the Treaty, and is not really a matter of political choice. Since Article 13 of the Treaty obliges the EU and Member States to pay full regard to the welfare of animals, it is compulsory to consider activities in other policy areas which could promote animal welfare and prevent any negative impact of other policies on animals.”
The Strategy is stronger and more focused as a result.
OneKind wrote to all UK MEPs asking them to support the Paulsen report. First to respond was our Vice-President David Martin MEP, who confirmed that he had voted for the European Parliament resolution. To see the resolution, click here