'In 2008 the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) provided the following definition of animal welfare: 'An animal has a satisfactory state of well-being if it is healthy, comfortable, well fed, safe, able to maintain its innate [natural] behavior and if it does not suffer discomfort due to, for example, pain, fear, suffering'. The concept of animal welfare is inscribed in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which recognizes animals as sentient beings. ' (1)
Waiting for a European 'policy' - which could be followed by the application of new rules, in 7-8 years - there is an online public consultation by the European Commission. Only consumers can turn around.
Animal welfare, towards greater things
The strategy Farm to Fork, announced in Brussels on May 20.5.20, XNUMX, provided for the development of a proposal to revise the rules on the subject of animal welfare in 2023. It is still unclear whether the Commission will present a Green Paper on introducing a new 'strategy' to be consulted Urbi et orbi, or a White Paper (on the basis of the consultations already underway), or whether it will directly adopt a series of proposals (regulations and / or directives).
In the latter case, the most 'expeditious' and perhaps probable, the texts will presumably be examined at first reading by the Parliament and the Council at the end of 2024 - beginning of 2025. After the inauguration of the new MEPs and the formation of new parliamentary committees, following the upcoming elections to be held in May 2024. The second reading could take place in the first half of 2026 and - in the event of a more or less rapid agreement between Parliament, the Council and the Commission - the new texts could be published in the Official Journal by the end of that year . With a transitional period, for their effective application, which is reasonable to wait in the following two years.
European Conte dei Conti, ABC of shortcomings
The European Court of Auditors, in its 2018 Special Report on Animal Welfare, highlights some shortcomings that are attributed to them (in primis) to the Member States: (1)
A) failure to achieve the minimum standards of animal welfare. To which follows the suggestion of 'employ better'' CAP funding,
B) lack of official public veterinary controls in some areas, (2)
C) inadequate application of the legislation, as regards a
- farms (e.g. tail docking and pig castration),
- transport (with attention to long-distance transport and unsuitable animals),
- slaughter (eg exceptions for ritual slaughter without stunning, inadequate stunning practices).
Better late than never, the European Commission is expected to publish a report on the EU Animal Welfare Strategy 2020-2012 by the end of 2015. (3) Also taking into account, in theory, the comments collected in one public consultation online concluded on 22.6.20.
Public consultation online
Il fitness check (review) on legislation on animal welfare it was also launched, in order to assess the suitability of the rules in force. (4)
All social partners interested parties, including citizens, can express their point of view by 29.7.20, by following the link https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/12400-Fitness-Check-of-the-EU-legislation-on-animal-welfare-.
Animal husbandry, the opposing interests
The European Commission - in continuing consultations and chatter, that is, wasting time, rather than adopting legislative proposals - he follows the orders of the strong powers. There giga-industry of German corporals and the global financial giants, the latter of which impose on politics the green light for imports from the American continent - USA, Canada, Brazil - of products deriving from the most sinister exploitation of farm animals.
Pets fed with animal meal and GMO soybeans loaded with pesticides, that is grazed in specially burnt forests. Growth hormones and veterinary drugs banned in Europe for decades, to please. And various other amenities, including the chlorine washing of sick chicken carcasses Made in USA.
European animal husbandry conversely, he expressed interest to invest in the sustainability of supply chains and in animal welfare, with the idea of adding value and distinguishing productions Made in Europe. Which already stand out for the application of a rigorous discipline, in terms of animal health and food safety, subject among other things to recent reform.
The invisible cleaver of the market
In the absence adequate support, in the context of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), it is difficult to foresee substantial investments in the expected directions. All the more so when we consider that breeders, rarely aggregated in large consortia and / or cooperatives, continue to suffer from competition - in conditions of dumping socio-environmental of global giants.
Price volatility, lack of inter-professional agreements, imbalance of bargaining power with large customers and unfair commercial practices - the prohibition of which, provided for in the EU directive 2019/633, has not yet been implemented in Italy - complete the scenario. And if tens of thousands of farmers are struggling to survive today, not only animal welfare but also food sovereignty have few chance.
The role of consumers
THE CONSUMERS, in this scenario, they are perhaps the only ones who can overturn the invisible cleaver of the market. By choosing products that come from a short supply chain, from animals (e fish) raised without antibiotics. All the better if organic.
However, we must get rid of the 'price drug' and recognize the value of those who respect the rights of workers, animals and the environment. Sea bream and sea bass reared in Italy, to recall an example, they cannot be as cheap as the Greek ones. But herd density and antibiotic levels are unmatched. Each consumption choice therefore has its impact for which we are responsible every day.
Dario Dongo and Marina De Nobili
(1) European Court of Auditors. Animal welfare in the EU: bridging the gap between ambitious goals and practical implementation, Special Report 31/2018.
(2) An observation on the current situation in Italy emerges from the report of the Court of Auditors. Pig holdings with fewer than 40 pigs or 6 sows and goat, sheep and cattle holdings (except calves) with fewer than 50 head of cattle can still be excluded from animal welfare checks. Considering the fragmentation of farms in Sardinia, 85% of pig farms, 67% of goat farms and 86% of cattle farms (except calves) are excluded from these checks.
(3) European Commission. Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015. Communication COM / 2012/06 final
(4) Directive 98/58 / EC on the protection of animals on farms. Dir. 1999/74 / EC, laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens. Dir. 2007/43 / EC, laying down minimum standards for the protection of chickens raised for meat production. Dir. 2008/120 / EC, laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs. Directive 2008/119 / EC, laying down minimum standards for the protection of calves. EC Reg. 1/2005, on the protection of animals during transport. EC Reg. 1099/2009, concerning the protection of animals at the time of killing