Advocacy groups condemn EU Commission for backpedalling on animal rights3 Oct 2023
Amid rumours that the EU may abandon its plans to improve animal welfare in farming and end the use of cages, many stakeholders have condemned this possibility and urged the EU to reconsider.
The Financial Times first reported that the animal welfare laws may be scrapped due to concerns over the resulting costs and inflated prices that would be passed on to consumers.
On September 13, the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, gave a State of the Union speech on the commission’s priorities, but did not mention any plans to publish new animal welfare laws or updates to the transition to sustainable food systems.
Compassion in World Farming, an animal rights organisation, called this “a scandalous show of disdain for civic engagement, at a time when people are already losing trust in the EU”.
Betraying the trust of citizens
In 2021, the European Commission first committed to end the use of cages in animal farming by 2027. It was in response to the End the Cage Age European Citizens’ Initiative, signed by 1.4 million citizens and coordinated by Compassion in World Farming.
“We fear the European Commission has gone back on its word to give animals a life worth living, bowing to the demands of the big agri lobby and killing the new animal welfare laws by delaying,” said Olga Kikou, head of the Compassion in World Farming’s EU office.
“They have betrayed the trust of its citizens and have turned EU democracy into an empty shell. Ahead of the EU elections, this will not go unnoticed in the polls.”
Other EU groups have also voiced their concern with the commission’s potentially revised plans, including the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).
“If recent rumours of the EU Commission ditching their own plans to make food systems more sustainable and improve animal welfare are true, this is simply unacceptable to us,” Emma Calvert, senior food policy officer at BEUC, told Ingredients Network.
“1.4 million citizens have said loud and clear they want the end of cages in farming, so they expect better animal welfare. The Commission has now the opportunity to improve animal welfare so they should stick to their initial plan and come up with an ambitious proposal which responds to the clear concerns of European citizens.”
Adopting the position of a candidate
Anaïs Berthier, head of environmental law charity ClientEarth’s Brussels office, similarly criticised the EU’s lack of vocal support and commitment to animal welfare.
“While Von der Leyen acknowledged the importance of addressing the climate and biodiversity crises, there was no mention of crucial outstanding laws needed to achieve the Green Deal objectives,” Berthier said. “Nothing was said on the Sustainable Food System law, which is key to ensure long-term access to healthy and sustainable food for people across the EU.”
“With the European elections looming, Von der Leyen seems to have adopted the position of a candidate. We hope it won’t make her lose focus on the need to ensure a liveable planet for future generations.”
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