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Friday, 20 January 2012

New strategy to improve animal welfare

The European Commission has recently adopted a new four-year strategy (2012-2015) that aims to further improve the welfare of animals in the European Union. EU Animal Welfare legislation, developed in response to contingencies and political demand over the past 3 decades, is often detailed and sector specific but sporadic in its coverage.
EU Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner, John Dalli,  has said: "[…] The new strategy will permit appropriate flexibility allowing operators to attain the necessary welfare standards by different routes. Optimising policy coherence and market transparency in a comprehensive animal welfare legislative framework will minimise real or perceived tensions between welfare and economics. Animal welfare measures need to be cost-effective. The proposed dedication of resources to education and training is expected to be highly cost-effective, economically and in welfare terms"
Uneven application of these rules in the member States makes for an uneven playfield in this important economic sector. Viewed against the background of the diversity of climatic, terrain and farming systems in which it must be applied, this area of European law calls for change.
The new Strategy was adopted in the form of a Commission Communication to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee. The Communication identifies the lack of enforcement of EU legislation by Member States in a number of areas as one of the major issues adversely affecting animal welfare in the EU. Another brake on full and even implementation is the fact that the market does not provide sufficient economic incentives for compliance. It also notes that many of the parties involved lack sufficient knowledge about animal welfare, while it points out gaps in EU legislation which make it harder to ensure adequate welfare conditions for some categories of animals.
To address these issues and concerns, the Strategy provides for a two-pronged approach: a proposal for a comprehensive animal welfare law and a reinforcement of current actions. The legislation to be proposed is expected to promote an innovative approach focusing on actual welfare outcomes instead of mechanistic inputs, and to increase the focus on the education and professional standards of all parties concerned.
The second element proposes reinforcement and the optimisation of current Commission actions: enhancing tools to strengthen Member State compliance with the legal requirements; boosting the already existing international co-operation on animal welfare issues; providing consumers with better information, and performing studies where animal welfare appears to encounter the most problems.

Source: European Commission

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