Last week, the European Commission adopted a Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system.
This Strategy is at the heart of the European Green Deal (presented by the Von der Leyen Commission on 11 December 2019, it sets an ambitious roadmap towards a climate-neutral circular economy by 2050), and it includes recommendations for increased plant-based diets, new policies for animal welfare and environmental sustainability.
One of the tenets of the new strategy is to improve the welfare of farmed animals, and the Commission states that it will revise current animal welfare legislation. Stricter animal welfare standards are, in fact, among the sustainable agricultural practices necessary to achieve the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy.
This strategy anticipates to perform a “Fitness Check” of the EU animal welfare legislation for food producing animals.
The Fitness Check will assess whether the legislation in question remains fit for purpose and effective to pursue the EU’s animal welfare objectives, considering the evolution of scientific knowledge. It will also assess the animal welfare needs and citizens’ expectations since the adoption of the legislation.
The Fitness Check will cover: the Regulation EC 1/2005 on the protection of live animals during transport; the Regulation EC 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing; the Council Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes; the Council Directive 1999/74/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens; the Council Directive 2007/43/EC laying down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production; the Council Directive 2008/120/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs; the Council Directive 2008/119/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of calves.
In order to do this, a consultation strategy will be designed at the onset of the process to secure the involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including also: EU citizens and consumers and organisation representing them; organisations from the civil society active at Union level in relation to animal welfare; and international intergovernmental organisations active on animal welfare.
Finally, the Fitness Check will use evidence obtained, among other things, also through: case law of the European Court of Justice, complaints, and NGO reports.
It is clear that this is a crucial moment for NGOs to propose concrete proposals to amend European animal legislation, so that animals are really treated as sentient beings, as stated in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.