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Animal welfare in the EU

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The European Union has been an advocate of animal welfare for over 40 years and is seen as one of the world leaders in this area, applying some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. EU standards have also had a positive influence on legislation in third countries. These standards cover farm animals (on the farm, during transport or slaughter) as well as wildlife, laboratory animals and pets. 

In Austria, the debate has already taken hold in society on the issue of pig farming. This is one of the major sectors of agriculture in this country, with nearly three million pigs for less than nine million inhabitants. And here too it was the citizens who got things moving with a plebiscite signed by 400,000 people. As a result, the European Parliament voted a resolution asking the government to improve the living conditions of the pig farms. 

In Ireland, since the beginning of the pandemic of Covid-19, the associations of protection of
animals warn on the danger of adopt an animal in time of confinement, because, notably, of the risks of abandonment during the return to a normal life. Nevertheless, Ireland is facing a sad phenomenon: never have so many donkeys have been abandoned or mistreated. There is between five and ten thousand of them in the country, with its heritage of the agriculture and the rural tradition of the country. 

According to a Eurobarometer survey on European attitudes towards animal welfare, conducted in May 2021, 82% of respondents said that livestock welfare should be protected more than it actually is.

The first European animal welfare regulations date back to the 1970s. The 1998 Livestock Welfare Directive established general standards for the protection of all animals raised for food, wool, skins, fur or other agricultural purposes, including fish, reptiles and amphibians. Other EU regulations set animal welfare standards for livestock at stunning and slaughter, as well as conditions for keeping specific categories of animals such as calves, pigs and laying hens. 

On June 10, in response to the European Citizens’ Initiative « End the Cage Age », signed by 1.4 million European citizens (400,000 in Germany and 100,000 in France), MEPs called on the Commission to present a proposal to ban cage farming in the EU by 2027. 


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