Watchdog to assess effectiveness of EU animal welfare policy

By Keith Nuthall

- Last updated on GMT

Auditors want to ascertain if the EU's so-called world-leading animal welfare standards are up to scratch
Auditors want to ascertain if the EU's so-called world-leading animal welfare standards are up to scratch

Related tags: Animal welfare, European union

A detailed review of whether the European Union’s (EU) comprehensive animal welfare efforts are proving effective is to be staged by the EU’s financial watchdog, the Court of Auditors, this year.

The Court has announced it will be sending experts to Romania, Poland, France, Italy and Germany, as part of its policy audit, with a report expected to be released by December (2018).

It is “examining whether action by the European Commission and the [EU] member states has made an effective contribution to achieving the EU’s animal welfare objectives​”, said a note from the official Luxembourg-based watchdog.

A background paper released yesterday (Tuesday, 9 January) highlighted two areas of concern that will receive particular attention from auditors.

Auditors probe standards

One is how the EU executive and member states have ensured that the meat and livestock sector complies with the EU’s increasingly broad animal welfare rules, including detailed regulations on live transport, slaughtering, poultry housing and more.

The auditors would want to see how the Commission and governments “have ensured that the control systems for the enforcement of minimum standards are effective​”, said the Court.

Another policy area that will be under close examination will be how member states have applied the so-called ‘cross-compliance mechanism’ of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This involves farmers being given certain minimum animal welfare standards. If they fail to meet them, CAP payments can be reduced.

The Court will also look at how effectively member states allocate funds under rural development measures to address specific animal welfare problems, including encouraging farmers to go beyond minimum standards.

It will also assess how well the Commission performs in disseminating good animal welfare practices and in following-up the results of its own inspections on the topic.

The Court looks at a wide range of EU policies and programmes, assessing whether the money spent on their implementation is achieving the goals set out in the relevant legislation. While the Commission and member states do not have to follow its advice, it is influential.

In its paper​, the Court noted: “The EU has some of the world’s highest regulatory standards on animal welfare.​” It stressed that how not only is animal welfare within Europe enshrined within the Treaty of the European Union, this founding agreement also recognises animals as sentient beings – and hence worthy of more protection than if they were merely goods.

A 2012-15 EU animal welfare strategy was supposed to ensure that animal welfare standards are consistently applied and enforced across the European Union.

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