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EU might drop new animal welfare rules

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-09-12 09:14

Senior officials have stated the European Union is considering scrapping plans for implementing regulations aimed at improving animal welfare in the farming industry, citing concerns about potential effects on food inflation.

Originally, after a public outcry against practices like caged livestock, slaughtering day-old chicks, and the sale and production of fur, the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, had committed to act.

However, fears that the amendments could exacerbate food inflation triggered by the Russia-Ukraine conflict in conjunction with bad weather in key producing countries have caused a reconsideration of the plans, reported the Financial Times.

While one official stated the commission is reviewing the animal welfare plan and considering a scaled-back version, other EU officials knowledgeable about the issue said the proposals, including a sustainable food law promoting green food production across the bloc, have been completely dropped.

Farmers' costs could surge by an average of 15 percent, potentially leading to higher consumer prices and an increase in imports, according to a draft impact assessment of the animal welfare proposals by the commission, as seen by the FT.

Expanding the space where broiler chickens are housed could add 12 cents to the price of a dozen eggs, and a ban on killing day-old male chicks could add up to 60 cents, says the assessment.

The EU farmer's group Copa-Cogeca has stated it could back many of the proposed changes if they are accompanied by financial aid and equal standards for imported meat.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is scheduled to review the bloc's green policies in her State of the Union speech on Wednesday, and the executive has reaffirmed its commitment to revise animal welfare legislation this year.

The legislation is among the remaining elements of the EU's 2019 Green Deal climate package that aims for a shift to a sustainable economy. However, conservative politicians are resisting the regulations, notably ahead of EU-wide elections next year.

Joe Moran, director of European policy for Four Paws, an animal welfare campaign group, told the FT that "some in the commission are worried about the cost".

"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."

The European Food Safety Authority notes that the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 included an explicit recognition that animals are sentient beings and that the EU and its member states bear an ethical responsibility to prevent maltreatment, pain and suffering.

It says this protection extends significantly to those animals farmed for food production, as their welfare is directly connected to the safety of the food chain, and that the relationship between animal welfare, animal health, and food-borne diseases is tight, with stress factors and poor welfare leading to increased susceptibility to transmissible diseases among animals.

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