EU health and food safety commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis inaugurated the first meeting at the European Commission in Brussels yesterday (6 June), with 75 experts participating, from the meat and livestock industry, retailers, animal welfare activists, scientists, EU governments, European Economic Area countries – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, international organisations and EFSA (the European Food Safety Authority). Meetings will be staged twice a year. Switzerland will send an official as an observer.
Commenting on the launch, Andriukaitis said the initiative should not be perceived as a forum for developing new legislation. Rather, its goal is better application of EU rules on welfare, achieving voluntary but verifiable commitments by livestock businesses and promoting standards which, according to the EU chief, will be “a competitive advantage on a global level”. That said, Andriukaitis called for a collegiate approach from the diverse range of groups participating: “The platform will only be able to deliver if trust and cooperation exist. If you come to the platform only to ask or defend your position, I am afraid we will not succeed,” he warned.
Some participants said they had been waiting for a long time for such an initiative, welcoming its focus: “A pause in the legislative procedure is a good idea, because we have a lot of existing legislation that needs to be enforced,” commented Niels Juul, the representative for slaughterhouse association the European Meat Network.
Also speaking to GlobalMeatNews, Jean-Luc Mériaux, secretary general of the European Livestock and Meat Trading Union (UECBV), said he regarded the EU platform as helpful to the red meat industry by promoting dialogue between non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the public and private sector and academia, as well as the exchange of best practices, encouraging better enforcement of existing EU legislation, and the promotion of better animal welfare in non-EU countries.
Tamás Éder, vice-president of the Liaison Centre for the Meat Processing Industry in the European Union (CLITRAVI), said the forum would also help ensure EU welfare rules were implemented in an even way across member states.
“We have to be very careful what kind of animal welfare legislation we form and apply. As most animal welfare rules increase the cost of production, it is not negligible if the enforcement of the legislation is different in the member countries,” Éder told GlobalMeatNews. He also hoped animal husbandry and meat production businesses, NGOs, the EU and national government institutions would work together to educate consumers about animal welfare legislation and voluntary programmes promoting livestock health and well-being.