Animal Welfare in the EU: “A Goal of Common Interest”

The JRI blog has a post this month by Dr Mariann Molnár, researcher, on farm animal welfare in the European Union that should be of interest to many Pollinator readers in that region (and elsewhere).

A couple of excerpts:

I have found that while farmers are directly responsible for the day-to-day care of their animals, most of them are severely constrained financially or by the technologies they have invested in, which makes it very hard for them to make meaningful changes to the welfare of animals. They are acutely aware of problems caused by large-scale, intensive, indoor farming systems and while they need to ensure a profit, most of them have traditional values and would prefer to keep their animals in more natural conditions. Second, EU minimum animal welfare standards were only able to ensure improved conditions for a limited subset of issues, while it ignored other important matters. But regulations were still very much needed, yet problems induced by varying degrees of enforcement in different Member States, or the fear of over-regulation were also widely apparent. Finally, while most EU citizens were found to be highly concerned for farm animal welfare when shopping for food, other factors came into play.

…Data from my study indicates that to ensure meaningful change to the welfare of farm animals, it is essential for the ongoing EU agriculture reform effort to provide a workable alternative production and trade model that can be used in the current free trade context. Indeed, most farmers I have interacted with claim that given the right measures, a sustainable, small- to medium-scale farming enterprise, that is diverse (i.e. produces more than one product), extensive, or semi-intensive, and provides animals with indoor and outdoor access is a workable farming model. To compensate for higher costs of production in such a system, farmers also see the need to stop selling their animals to companies and start engaging directly in the processing and sale of their products. This model is already apparent, but only for the smallest alternative producers, who have not invested in current forms of large-scale intensive agricultural practices. The most pressing question then is to identify incentives that could facilitate these changes for willing farmers currently working with intensive farming operations.

I believe that a successful transition away from the use of intensive farming systems is possible and if done with care, reflective of conflicting human-animal interests and compromised arrangements, it may offer numerous environmental, human, and animal welfare benefits. This is an exceptional opportunity for the EU, European farmers, and citizens to work together for a goal of common interest.

Read the rest here.