European Commission bids on Science for New Animal Welfare Legislation

The European Commission wants to keep the new animal welfare laws up to date with the latest scientific knowledge, according to an EU official. This would require taking into account the most recent science when revising the current animal welfare legislative framework. "We don’t start from scratch – we have previous evaluations, we have previous knowledge, we know there are certain shortcomings to be addressed - there is a gap between legislation and recent science, and an inability to assume new science flexibly," said Christian Juliusson, DG SANTE during the online event on animal welfare organised by the Sustainable Fur Forum on 2 December. The revision of the animal welfare legislation is part of the Farm to Fork Strategy, which is the cornerstone of the Green Deal and the ambitions to make the continent climate neural by 2050. "The commitment is quite specific. There is indeed a need for a science-based approach, a need for new science. One objective is to align the legislation in the future with the latest knowledge," added Mr Juliusson. The process started in May this year with the so-called ‘'fitness check’' which will assess all existing law affecting animal keeping and breeding practices, transport and killing methods. The Commission hopes it would also be able to enforce stricter control over animal welfare breaches. "There is also the clear ambition to broaden the scope compared to what we have today and also make it easier to enforce [..] Certain species of animals lack a specific legislation for them," said Mr Juliusson. In September, the Commission threatened to take several Member states to court over violations of animal welfare of farm animals. ‘"Our task is to make sure the future legislation is enforceable to a larger extent than it is today. The ultimate goal is to ensure a high level of animal welfare." This, according to a representative of the European Reference Centre on the welfare of poultry, rabbits and small animals, could be accomplished if the legislation envisages the use of animal-based indicators in assessments. "The actual animal welfare legislation is exclusively based on resource-based measures when it should be using animal-based measures instead, which are more accurate," said prof. Prof. Steen Henrik Møller. The purpose of the EU reference centres for animal welfare is to gather existing scientific knowledge and contribute to the dissemination of good practices on animal welfare in the EU. The scientific and technical expertise of the centres will be used to carrying out studies and developing methods for animal welfare assessment and improvement. As part of the revision of the animal welfare framework, the Commission is planning to launch an external study next year and to consult stakeholders through public consultation. It will also look into the impacts of the future animal welfare legislation on the agriculture, trade and environment.