EU action on animal welfare has been successful in important aspects, but weaknesses persist in relation to farm animals, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. Guidelines on how animals are to be transported and slaughtered and on the welfare of pigs have been issued by the Commission, but there are still issues on how they are implemented on the ground. Member States generally act on recommendations from the European Commission, say the auditors, but can take a long time to do so.
The EU has some of the world’s highest animal welfare standards, which include rules on the rearing, transport and slaughter of farm animals. The common agricultural policy (CAP) links farm payments to minimum levels of animal welfare, while rural development policy encourages farmers to pursue higher standards. For 2014-2020, 18 Member States have allocated €1.5 billion to animal welfare payments under rural development.
To examine how the welfare of farm animals is checked and the overall implementation of the EU animal welfare strategy, the auditors visited five Member States: Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Romania. They concluded that EU action was successful in some areas, but that there were still weaknesses in compliance with minimum standards. There is room to improve coordination with cross-compliance checks, and better use could be made of the CAP to promote higher animal welfare standards.
“Animal welfare is an important issue for EU citizens,” said Janusz Wojciechowski, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “The European Commission has been proactive in addressing stakeholders’ concerns, but we still need to close the gap between the ambitious goals and practical implementation.”