It sounds good, doesn't it. Animal welfare has recently been included in Europe's Common Agricultural Policy’s ‘eco-scheme’ incentive programme. A recent amendment enables good animal welfare practices in the food chain; and the eco-schemes incentive programme will now encourage farmers who want to receive CAP subsidies to go beyond legal standards when it comes to the treatment of animals on their farms.
So why should animal advocates be disappointed?
Advocates are reportedly disappointed over missed opportunities to fundamentally reform the one piece of legislation which most affects the lives of the seven billion farm animals raised and slaughtered each year in the EU.
Animal welfare was first brought into the CAP in 2003, but spending on it has been a marginal fixture ever since. The recent votes of the AGRI Committee appear to signal a continuation of this approach. “These are still very small steps towards meeting the objective to bring EU agriculture in line with societal demand in regard to the CAP’s consideration for animals,” said Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals. “In paying European farmers in exchange for producing food in a certain way, the CAP is the determining factor when it comes to the number of animals raised for food in the EU and the ways in which they are treated. As such, it needs a much stronger focus on animal welfare than it already has.”
For a region that controls so much of the worlds consumption of animals and animal products, and the importance of animal welfare to wider social, economic, and environmental issues, there is clearly a continuing conflict of priorities. The question for governors is how to secure the potential benefits for people and animals without totally deconstructing the current paradigm.