European Union (EU) law contains a range of helpful provisions designed to protect farm animals on-farm, during transport and at slaughter. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises animals as “sentient beings” and requires the EU and its Member States, when formulating and implementing their policies in certain key areas to pay “full regard to the welfare requirements of animals”. EU law has prohibited some of the worst aspects of industrial livestock production: veal crates have been prohibited from 2007, barren battery cages for egg-laying hens from 2012 and sow stalls (gestation crates) are prohibited (except during the first four weeks of pregnancy) from 2013. This article describes and evaluates the above legislation and indicates the scientific research on which it is based. Nonetheless, EU law has to date only gone part way; substantial and far-reaching fresh legislation is needed before the EU can claim to have a body of law which properly ends the suffering inherent in industrial farming and legislates for a positive state of well-being for farm animals.
By Peter Stevenson, an English solicitor, works for the organisation Compassion in World Farming, which has offices in the UK and several other European Union Member States.