New Animal Welfare Strategy Launched

The European Commission's launch of its new four-year strategy (2012-2015) on the welfare of animals in the European Union has been welcomed by Alyn Smith MEP as an important opportunity to fine tune and improve upon the initial Animal Welfare Strategy from 2006.

Much of the EU's animal welfare legislation has been developed in response to contingencies and political demand over the space of thirty years, and by its nature has often been very detailed and sector specific, as well as sporadic in its coverage. The initial Animal Welfare Strategy sought to tie it all together though has had varying degrees of success due to uneven application of rules, lack of enforcement by some Member States, the diverse nature of farming and environment across the EU and gaps in the existing legislation.

Alyn said:

"After five years we have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to this Strategy, and it is fair to say that there are lessons that have been learnt. While I have no doubt that the original intention behind this legislation was well-meaning, there have been problems in some areas that have required some smoothing over and some that still need sorting out. Battery cages for laying hens, farrowing crates for pigs, non-enforcement of animal transport rules: these are all issues covered by this Strategy but all issues that are yet to be resolved.

"I am relieved to hear Commissioner Dalli stress the importance of improving enforcement of the existing legislation rather than putting in place new rules and restrictions, and I am sure our producers will feel similarly. Europe's farmers are already operating under some of the strictest welfare rules in the world and it is vital that the playing field is levelled before even further requirements are placed on them. Even as the official Commission document says, the market does not provide sufficient economic incentives for compliance as it is, so further demands must be realistic and cost-effective."

The Commission press release is available at