Animal Welfare Pledge
These elections will determine Europe’s political priorities for the next five years. Political progress for the welfare of animals depends on committed parliamentarians, which is why we ask candidates to show their engagement by taking this pledge.
Strive to ensure that animal sentience and its implications is acknowledged in all relevant legislative proposals and policy initiatives that come before the Parliament
The Lisbon Treaty introduced the recognition in the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union that animals are sentient beings (Article 13 of Title II). This article should be mentioned in the citations of Parliamentary reports and documents on every legislative proposal and policy initiative relevant for animal welfare so that it can duly be taken into account.
In the case of a revision of the Treaties, support the inclusion of animal welfare as a shared competence
The EU institutions can only adopt laws that can benefit animal welfare on the basis of the Common Agricultural Policy, the smooth functioning of the internal market or the protection of human health with regards to transmissible animal diseases. Turning animal welfare into a shared competence would allow the Union institutions to make law on animal welfare per se, just as can be done within individual Member States. This reflects EU citizens’ expectations, as the majority of them believe some or most decisions on animal welfare should be taken at the EU level (Eurobarometer, 2016).
Urge the Commission to ensure efficient enforcement and implementation of animal welfare related legislation in all Member States
There are a range of EU legal standards for animal welfare scattered across many pieces of law, but compliance and enforcement too often fall short of expectations. Commission audits have for example found between 95 and 100% of pigs are tail docked in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Denmark and Germany, in direct contradiction of EU law. The Parliament has a power of scrutiny to ensure the Commission takes remedial action to address cases where law designed to protect animals is not being implemented.
Support the adoption of a general animal welfare framework law to provide a minimum level of protection to all animals while safeguarding the existing acquis
Current animal welfare related EU legislation is still limited in its scope. The introduction of an EU-Framework Law on animal welfare would have the objective to provide basic protection to all kept and abandoned animals, including stray animals of domesticated species thus reflecting the principle of animal sentience enshrined in Article 13 of the Treaty. The law should by all means not water down the current EU animal welfare acquis but provide clear rules facilitating better and more thorough levels of compliance with existing animal welfare related legislation.
Promote and support policy developments for the introduction of better animal welfare standards
Many initiatives are likely to see the light in this new legislative term that will either have the potential to advance or threaten animals’ interests. We invite MEPs to exploit the full range of Parliament initiatives at their disposal – own initiative reports, inquiries, parliamentary questions, exhibitions and conferences – to promote better animal welfare standards.
Call on the Commission to appoint a Commissioner on Animal Welfare
Animal welfare is a horizontal issue that touches upon a variety of European policies. Today, about a quarter of the Commission’s departments directly relate to the interests of animals. Putting animal welfare under a single Commissioner is a goal to ensure it receives a joined-up approach by the EU’s executive. This would send a strong message about any Commission’s commitment to improve the lives of animals.
Endeavour to minimise live animal transport by replacing the transport of live animals for slaughter with the trade of meat and carcasses
Each year, 1 billion poultry and 42 million sheep, goats, horses, pigs and bovines are transported within the EU and to third countries, most of them for slaughter. Live transport raises significant animal welfare concerns as animals are often exposed to thirst, hunger, excessive heat, exhaustion, lack of space or rest. Live animal transport can also pose severe risks for public health by contributing to the spreading of diseases. Prioritising the transport of meat and carcasses would have a major impact to decrease animal suffering, while maintaining the trade.
Promote a swift phase out of the use of all cages for the rearing and keeping of farmed animals
Up to 700 million farm animals, including hens, quail, rabbits, sows and ducks, are being confined in cages on EU farms each year. Many of them are kept in cages for all or most of their lives. Caged animals are severely restricted in their movement and prevented from performing basic natural behaviours, with a detrimental impact on their health and welfare. The use of cages should therefore be banned and accompanied by the promotion of higher welfare farming systems.
Support a revision of the Broiler Directive to substantially improve the welfare of broiler chickens
Industrial broiler chicken production is predominant with seven billions broilers reared in the EU. This production system brings major welfare concerns resulting from the selection of breeds for fast growth, high stocking density, a lack of natural light, enrichment, or opportunities to display natural behaviour. Only minimum protection standards are contained in the Broiler Directive which urgently needs revision for welfare, environmental and public health reasons. Improvements were recently requested by the Parliament’s plenary.
Ensure that farm animal welfare will be made a priority in the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy
Only 1.54% of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget is currently spent on animal welfare measures. Making animal welfare a priority in the implementation of the CAP is critical to respond to European citizens’ expectations, as 82% of them believe farm animals should be better protected than they are now (Eurobarometer 2016).
End the practice of force-feeding of ducks and geese used for foie gras production
Foie gras production currently requires the forced feeding of ducks and geese. This fatty liver condition impairs liver function and makes it difficult for the birds to breathe. Besides being painful, the forced-feeding procedure requires the close confinement of ducks (mostly in individual cages) as they try to avoid the force-feeding otherwise. In addition, foie gras production leads to the killing of millions of female ducklings because only male ducks can be used. 23 EU member states do not force-feed birds and alternatives to force feeding exist. Adjusting marketing standards for ‘foie gras’ is needed to allow such alternatives to compete on equal footing.
Ensure all animals are always effectively stunned prior to slaughter
The EU Slaughter Regulation sets minimum standards for the protection of animals at the time of slaughter. Stunning before slaughter is compulsory but derogations are in place for cultural or religious reasons. Without stunning, the animals can remain conscious and severely suffer for several minutes which many stakeholders such as the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe consistently condemn. Reversible stunning would be compatible with slaughter carried out according to religious prescriptions, while offering relief for the animals.
Support the introduction of new rules to safeguard the welfare of fish particularly at the time of slaughter and during transport
The number of farmed fish outnumbers by far that of all other sentient animals farmed for food. Fishes’ welfare needs are currently not addressed specifically by EU legislation, despite the scientific consensus since 2003 that fish are sentient. The introduction of new EU rules are necessary to safeguard the basic welfare requirements of fish.
Support the adoption of an EU positive list of exotic pets determining which exotic animals can be traded and kept in the EU
Over recent years there has been a growing trend towards keeping exotic animals instead of traditional pets, making the EU a top importer of tropical fish, reptiles, birds and mammals. However, most species of exotic animals are unsuited to a life in captivity and it is extremely difficult for their owner to provide care, food and housing appropriate to their needs. Exotic species can also threaten local biodiversity and could negatively impact public health. An EU positive list would establish which species can be traded and kept as pets in a clear and comprehensive way, ensuring any species not on the list is actually forbidden.
Adopt an EU ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Circuses fail to provide some of the most basic social, spatial and health requirements for wild animals. Those animals are obliged to perform unnatural behaviours and training procedures include physical punishment which are stressful for the animals. They are exposed to close confinement, large, noisy crowds of people, frequent traveling, inappropriate social groupings and disruption of established social ties. 24 EU Member States have now adopted limitations on using wild animals in circuses. A coordinated approach among Member States at the EU level is now needed to definitively end this archaic form of entertainment.
Promote coexistence with and non-lethal management of wildlife in the EU
In highly populated continents like Europe, wildlife is forced to coexist and integrate with human activities. Efforts to solve conflicts with wildlife should begin by addressing the causes of human–wildlife conflicts and developing a culture of coexistence with human practices. Addressing conflicts by non-lethal methods and minimising animal welfare harms to achieve peaceful coexistence should be promoted at EU level.
Support the adoption of national bans on fur farming and oppose initiatives which provide EU endorsement to the fur industry.
The breeding of animals for the purposes of fur production is opposed by the majority of EU citizens who believe that it is unacceptable, unnecessary and immoral to keep and kill animals for the production of a luxury product for which there are many more humane alternatives.
In a context in which Member States are moving towards the banning of this cruel industry, the European Commission has recently announced that it will establish a second EU Reference Centre to focus also on the welfare of fur animals. This kind of initiatives give legitimacy to a cruel industry, are totally ineffective in improving the welfare of the animals and use the money of EU taxpayers for something that the majority of them consider unacceptable.
Promote the welfare and responsible care of equines supported by robust identification and traceability
Ignorance is the greatest driver of poor equine welfare across Europe today. No Member State is entirely free of welfare issues. This is why the Commission should help to promote the responsible ownership of equines, wherever the equid lives, and whatever their role. Furthermore, any notion of responsible ownership has to be underpinned by a proper identification and registration system. Traceability measures lie at the heart of good equine welfare and health. Without proper identification and registration, equines cannot be linked to a person responsible for their welfare.
Promote the introduction of compatible systems of identification and registration of dogs and cats at the EU level in order to ensure more efficient traceability of those animals
The illegal dog trade is a booming industry all over Europe, worth over more than 1 billion euros. A nascent illegal trade in cats is also on the rise. Online pet trading jeopardises the animals’ health and welfare. It also threatens public health while undermining consumer rights and the internal market through unfair competition and tax evasion. To stop the cruel illegal trade in pets the European Commission needs to ensure that there are minimum mandatory requirements for the identification and registration of cats and dogs in each Member State, and that information can be accessed on any given animal anywhere across the Union.
Animals in science
Promote the adoption of a comprehensive and concrete EU strategy with milestones to phase out the use of animals in research, testing and education
More than 12 million animals are used each year in Europe for scientific purposes. Besides the potentially painful experimentation processes, the way animals are raised, kept and housed can also be a source of distress and suffering. Animal experimentation has long been a contentious issue for ethical reasons. It now has also become a contested practice based on scientific grounds, as a growing number of scientists question the reliability of using animals and stress that data can not be easily extrapolated from animals to people. With the development of alternative methods, allowing scientists to replace and reduce the use of animals, the European Union should promote a clear strategy with milestones and timelines to phase out the use of animals in research, testing and education.
Trade and Animal Welfare
Ensure that imports of animal-based products from third countries fully respect EU animal welfare standards
In the last decade, the trade in animal products between the EU and non-EU countries has almost doubled. This trade is often detrimental to animal welfare because most international trade agreements neglect animal welfare issues. Liberalising trade without safeguarding animal welfare implies opening European markets to cheap poor welfare products which challenges the competitiveness of European producers who must comply with high animal welfare standards. It is fundamental that trade deals include provisions to ensure imported animal-based products fully respect EU animal welfare standards. Mandatory method of production labelling in the EU would aid compliance of imports and foster the development of higher welfare systems in the EU and third countries.
Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals
In a desire to join forces with other animal welfare-friendly MEPs, I commit upon my election to join the European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals.
This Intergroup is the driving force for animals in the European Parliament. It is the second oldest Intergroup and one of the best attended. The Intergroup offers the opportunity for MEPs from different Political Groups to meet, discuss, and to reach cross-party consensus on animal welfare concerns.