In a recent media briefing, Denis Simonin, from DG Sanco, who is driving the new strategy forward, said it needed to be more business- and outcome-orientated and that enforcement measures needed to be strengthened.
He said a review of the existing systems had shown that “enforcement was a problem in some EU states”, and that there needed to be clear indicators for all animals. He added that the strategy needed to focus on the core competence of animal handlers with an emphasis on education. “If you don’t know how to spot pain in an animal, then you won’t know how to deal with it.”
According to Simonin, the lack of knowledge on animal welfare needs to be addressed: “There’s a need for improvement. With vets, for example, animal welfare is not always part of the training.”
He said intensive farming was not necessarily contrary to good welfare, but it did pose a different challenge. “With intensive farming you increase the risk, and if you make a mistake it has more significant consequences and a greater impact – so it comes down to quality of management and that’s why we want to put the emphasis on education.”
He added that it came down to focusing more on the animal itself: “It’s about looking at the effect on the animals, not whether it’s an intensive or extensive system.”
There was also a need for better communication within the European food chain to ensure welfare research was being passed back down to farm level. “There’s a lot of work being done which is not getting back to the farmers, so there’s a need for networks to communicate that information on the local level.”