Agriculture MEP Welcomes EU Animal Slaughter Vote

06 May 2009
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Mr Alyn Smith has today welcomed a vote on animal slaughter standards across the EU as a victory for fairness for farmers and a step forward for animal welfare.

The vote also safeguarded the sensitive issue of exemptions for traditional slaughter practices crucial to the Islamic and Jewish faiths, amongst others, confirming that individual EU states must continue to make exception for meat consumed by faith groups.

Smith, the only Scot to speak in the debate the previous evening, welcomed in particular the fact that: states seeking to export their produce to the EU will be required to meet our higher standards - a key win for Scottish producers; and the encouragement of smaller and mobile slaughterhouses, crucial for the rural and island economy.

Speaking after the vote, Smith said:

"I mentioned in the debate that this is a classic European dossier, technical and complicated, but the underlying issues - animal welfare, religious tradition and equality of production for our meat producers - are of real importance to our citizens.

"This package does achieve the steps forward we want to see, while safeguarding the rights of faith groups to traditional slaughter methods. There is, I believe, a discussion to be had on what standards and market definition should be permissible for these exemptions, but that is for another discussion and I was pleased to see the exemptions safeguarded.

"Sadly the one amendment I would have liked to see, exempting small slaughterhouses from the need to have a resident animal welfare officer, was defeated, but on balance this package will still assist smaller slaughterhouses to operate, and crucially brings mobile slaughterhouses into the same package.

"As I said, all in all a good day for consumers and producers."

Mr Smith's speech in the debate is below.

Mr President, I would like to add my own congratulations to our rapporteur, Janusz Wojciechowski, for tackling a very complex and emotional dossier with some aplomb and dealing with a lot of conflicting viewpoints. In this speech, which is probably my last speech in this mandate, it is worth remarking to colleagues that this is what I call a classic European Parliament European dossier. It is technical, it is complex, it is a little bit distant from our citizens, but it is worth remembering that animal welfare is of crucial importance to our citizens, and fairness is of crucial importance to our producers, to our consumers and to our market.

I am particularly drawn to Amendments 45 and 46 on ensuring that third countries seeking to export to our territory match our standards. That is a crucial element of fairness for our producers and for consumer confidence in our markets, so it is very much to be welcomed.

Likewise, the proportionality of the measure in Amendments 65 to 67 allowing for on-the-job training is particularly to be welcomed for smaller slaughterhouses and smaller operations across the European Union. Also, the derogations allowing small abattoirs to be exempted from having the animal welfare officer present are very much to be welcomed.

On religious slaughter, I think the Commissioner is absolutely right. I do not think we need to regulate that in this package. So this is good news for consumers, this is good news for confidence in the EU meat market and it is a good job all round. My congratulations.