Thursday, April 18, 2024
Thursday, April 18, 2024
Home » EU Considers Dropping Stricter Animal Welfare Measures

EU Considers Dropping Stricter Animal Welfare Measures

by Paul Williamson
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Brussels rethinks plans over concerns that proposed changes could add to food costs

The EU is considering scrapping plans to impose regulations designed to improve animal welfare in the farming industry over concerns about the impact it could have on food inflation, according to senior officials. The European Commission had promised to act after public pressure to stop practices such as the use of cages for livestock, the killing of day-old chicks, and the sale and production of fur. But concerns that the proposed changes could add to food costs, which rose sharply after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, have led Brussels to reconsider the plans. Three EU officials with knowledge of the matter said the commission had dropped the proposals completely — along with a sustainable food law designed to boost green food production across the bloc. But another official said it was reviewing the animal welfare plan and would propose a scaled-back version. “Some in the commission are worried about the cost,” said Joe Moran, director of European policy for Four Paws, an animal welfare campaign group. The legislation is among the few remaining parts of the EU’s Green Deal climate package, laid out in 2019 to pivot the bloc to a more sustainable economy.

But ahead of EU-wide elections in 2024, conservative politicians have pushed back against the environmental regulations. A draft impact assessment by the commission into the animal welfare proposals, seen by the Financial Times, says farmers’ costs could rise on average by about 15 per cent, which “may result in higher consumer prices” and an increase in imports. A ban on killing day-old male chicks would add up to 60 cents to the price of a dozen eggs. Expanding the space where broiler chickens are housed would add 12 cents, according to the draft. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is expected to speak about the bloc’s progress on green policies when she gives her annual State of the Union speech to the European parliament on Wednesday.

The commission said it was still committed to revising animal welfare legislation this year. “Preparatory work currently under way covers the legislation for the welfare of animals kept and farmed for economic reasons,” it said.  Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of Copa-Cogeca, the EU farmer’s group, told the FT it could support many of the changes as long as they received financial aid to implement them, and if imported meat was subject to the same standards. That would in effect ban many imports from trading partners such as Brazil, Ukraine and Thailand. Such a measure would also be opposed by trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis. Pesonen said farmers would need time to adjust, should the EU press ahead.

On Friday, Copa-Cogeca warned of an “increasing distance between Brussels and rural areas” and condemned a “punitive approach that does not talk about concrete solutions, enablers and financial feasibility”.  The EU’s pledge to act on animal welfare was the result of a petition dubbed End the Cage Age, which was signed by 1.4mn people in 2020, and another to stop fur farming with 1.5mn supporters. Moran warned against scrapping or downgrading the welfare proposals. “Animal welfare is the last straw in the wind that is blowing the Green Deal to bits. It has to remain,” he said. “If it does not happen the commission would be ignoring one of biggest democratic demands in its history.”

Source : FT

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