The EU and animal welfare

As Honorary Vice President of the Scottish SPCA, Alyn gives his views on how the EU can influence animal welfare 

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Published by the Scottish SPCA in their 'With a Little Help From Our Friends' members' magazine in November 2013.

Being Honorary Vice President of the Scottish SPCA is a privilege.  Like you, I believe the Society does fantastic work and I’m glad to play a small part to help.

The promotion of animal welfare is a vital part of my role as an MEP.  From domestic pets to the farmyard and into the wild, I see it as my duty to speak up for those creatures that don’t have the ability to contribute to discussions themselves.  

Fortunately, the EU is committed to animal welfare. We’ve got a good track-record and we’ve tackled a wide range of issues.  We’ve seen bans on animal-tested cosmetic products, on shark finning, the trade of cat and dog fur, sow stalls and battery cages.  

There’s still a long way to go, though.  We can only create the legislation and intervene when it is not adhered to. Each EU country has to enforce it and some of them don’t. Some are still not compliant with the ban on battery cages, for example, despite having ten years’ notice and a compliance deadline of two years ago.         

The EU is turning the screw and making sure that the rules are complied with.  The implementation of pig welfare rules has been more successful but still not perfect.  There are still countries flouting the rules while Scottish farmers have spent a considerable amount of time and resources to ensure that they comply with the legislation.  

There have been enough warnings given and it is time to press ahead with legal action against those countries which have not brought their industries up to standard.  If we are producing food from animals we have a responsibility to ensure that welfare standards are as high as they can be.

I’ve recently been appointed my group’s lead negotiator on the review of the EU’s animal health strategy and I’ll be doing all I can.  I’m proud to tell friends and colleagues across the EU about Scotland’s great story of high standards of animal welfare (I think I bore people sometimes!).  I’ll be working closely with Scots in the redraft of the EU’s animal health legislation.  

Scotland will be right at the heart of the new EU animal health strategy.  We can showcase our own high standards and bring the rest of Europe up to our level as we’re improving on our already excellent record.  It’s going to be challenging but I’m looking forward to it.