EU Animal Welfare Review passes quality control test

The impact assessment on the overhaul of animal welfare rules has received approval from the European Commission’s Quality Monitoring Board, sources said, as the EU executive insists the overhaul remains a top priority despite a recent backlash on green files.

The European Commission is currently reviewing EU animal welfare legislation as part of the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy.

The proposal, which is expected to be presented in September, has been the subject of an impact assessment of the different policy options available to the EU executive.

Despite doubts about the timing of the proposalsources familiar with the file told EURACTIV that the impact assessment received a positive opinion from the Regulatory Scrutiny Board (RSB), the independent quality control body within the Commission which advises the College of Commissioners.

A Commission spokesperson told EURACTIV that, in line with the RSB’s mandate, its opinions on impact assessment projects will “be made public once the Commission has taken the relevant political initiative”.

With the go-ahead from the QC, the EU Food Safety and Health Service (DG SANTE) will disseminate the proposal to obtain a formal opinion from other Directorates-General (DGs) as part of the preparatory work of EU managers.

Meanwhile, the EU executive has denied rumors that the overhaul is not high on its priority list.

The Commission has been promoting animal welfare for over 40 years, the spokesperson said, adding that it is a top priority” for Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides herself and for the Commission’s Ursula von der Leyen.

Similarly, the head of DG SANTE’s animal welfare unit, Andrea Gavinelli, told a recent event that the EU executive is working to prepare the proposal and the maximum capacity and remained positive on the future of the proposal, adding that the picture we have today of the situation is the best we have had in recent years.

Optimistic but realistic

But despite the success in this first step, there is still a long way to go in negotiating the text that the Commission will propose and the European elections in June 2024 could prove to be a turning point.

Tilly Metz, Green MEP and member of Parliament’s main committee on the dossier (ENVI), said we see Conservatives and even some Liberals rejecting the Green Deal in general, which includes animal welfare legislation under the Farm to Fork strategy.

It really depends on the Commission that we have this text […] because the June 9, 2024 elections are very early, he added.

He stressed that serious work needs to be done before the elections, even if it will be difficult to carry them out [the work].

Meanwhile, Socialist MEP Pascal Durant also underscored his fears after the election, adding that a far-right parliament would be bad news for animal welfare, the Green Deal [and] for all.

So I want to be optimistic […]but we must also be realistic, he concluded.

But for the NGOs following this file, the approval of the quality control gives cause for optimism.

Joe Moran, director of the FOUR PAWS European Policy Office, said this positive response from the Regulatory Scrutiny Board confirms that the upcoming animal welfare proposals, as well as being eagerly awaited by citizens, make economic sense.

Considering that this green light comes after a thorough assessment by one of the strictest independent bodies within the Commission, this is good news, he added.

The EU executive’s ambitions, however, still face concerns and criticism from agricultural organisations, such as the EU farmers’ association COPA-COGECA, which recently commissioned its own impact assessment on a potential ban on animal cages.

The study found that pig and poultry production will decline and “significant investments” will need to be made.

“This study is simply showing a clear fact: the choice of the transition period will have important implications for production, profitability of farmers, the increase in prices for consumers and concentration effects,” said Miguel Angel Higuera, chair of the agricultural association’s animal welfare working group.

[Edited by Natasha Foote/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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