Monday

17th Jun 2019

Opinion

EU must step up action to improve animal welfare

  • We need a new EU Strategy on animal welfare, argue the agriculture and food ministers from Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark (Photo: caese)

Our common goal is to improve animal welfare in Europe.

Not only is there strong support among European citizens, but we are obliged by the treaty to pay full regard to animal welfare requirements in a range of EU policies.

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  • The most urgent topics are to reduce the number of tail-docked pigs, abolish the painful surgical castration of piglets and increase group housing. (Photo: Notat)

Small steps lead to the right direction. Now is the time to take more.

Our advocacy for a new platform for animal welfare at EU-level, bringing stakeholders together, will be a powerful tool to strengthen animal welfare.

We need tools like a new EU strategy on animal welfare to work together. But updated and Improved legislation is also needed.

We have already provided important suggestions regarding animal transport and pig welfare.

It's now time for the European Commission to take action.

The recently published Eurobarometer survey clearly shows a growing interest in animal welfare among European citizens.

In order to reflect the views of European citizens, it is important to improve animal welfare in the EU.

Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have cooperated since 2014 to promote animal welfare in the EU.

The so-called ‘Vught declaration’ states that current welfare legislation on husbandry, transport and the slaughter of animals must be enforced in a stricter and more harmonised manner.

It also underlines that some of the current provisions need to be adjusted to reflect the latest technical and socio-economic trends and scientific findings.

Cooperation for animal welfare

The collaboration between the three countries was extended further in April 2015 when Sweden joined an initiative highlighting standards for the protection of pigs.

In a position, we urge the commission to amend EU legislation on pigs.

It is urgent to reduce the number of tail-docked pigs, abolish the painful surgical castration of piglets and increase group housing.

One way to improve animal welfare in the EU is through legislation, but other tools are equally important.

In order to ensure the coordinated action of different parts of society, we propose an EU platform on animal welfare.

The aim is to encourage national, regional and local initiatives across Europe, this platform has been well received by other Member States.

The recently announced platform from the commission, to be set up in Spring next year, will facilitate the exchange of experiences and best practices and highlight initiatives to promote animal welfare.

It may also provide a forum to discuss animal welfare standards and the improvement of and enforcement of existing legislation.

We would also like to stress that implementing existing EU legislation is a matter of solidarity and crucial for achieving fair competition in the internal market.

It is our strong belief that the EU platform on animal welfare in the long term will contribute to a more uniform and transparent regulation.

Welfare only through working together

Cooperation is key to improving animal welfare.

In order to promote and improve animal welfare at a global level, bilateral trade agreements, international standards and technical support to developing countries remain important.

Improving animal welfare also promotes healthy animals and decreases the need for antibiotic treatment of animals.

This is crucial since antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become a critical issue of global importance.

Resistant bacteria doesn't care about political or national borders, nor borders between animal and human health sectors.

We need an all-encompassing approach and collaboration between sectors in this fight.

Proper use of antibiotics is key for the agricultural sector's contribution to fight AMR.

Healthy animals do not need antibiotics.

Antibiotics are too important to be used to mask bad housing or management conditions for animals.

Good animal husbandry plays a vital role to bring down the antibiotic need in the agricultural sector.

The commission has put a lot of effort into AMR issues, and the action plan from 2011, as well as the on-going evaluation and work on a foreseeable new action plan, is highly appreciated.

We want to stress the importance of continuing efforts to preserve the possibility of effective treatment of infections in both animals and humans.

We must do more than make laws

The proposal for a new regulation for official controls and other official activities includes the designation of the European Union reference centres for animal welfare.

A network of such centres should support the activities of the commission and provide an important and additional way to improve animal welfare in the Union.

Animal welfare in the EU needs to be strengthened, but to do this we have to use all the tools available.

The commission must continue its legislative work, but up-to-date legislation cannot stand alone.

Animal welfare in practice is strongly dependent on the extent to which provisions are implemented in the Member States.

We also need to develop further cooperation between stakeholders.

We are fully committed to the establishment of the platform and look forward to contributing to its success.

Sven-Erik Bucht is Sweden's minister for rural affairs, Martijn van Dam is Netherlands' minister for agriculture, Christian Schmidt is Germany's federal minister of food and agriculture and Esben Lunde Larsen is Denmark's minister for environment and food.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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