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Plenary focus: Strasbourg plenary session 2-5 July 2012

"Name and shame member states dragging their feet over animal welfare" - MEP Marit Paulsen

Marit Paulsen   Marit Paulsen: "Sometimes, it's good to point the finger at member states. It puts the issue back on the agenda."

There's not enough pressure on member states to apply EU rules on animal welfare, says Swedish MEP Marit Paulsen. To remedy this, the Liberal Democrat proposes in an own initiative report tighter monitoring of implementation to name and shame the offenders. MEPs approved it in plenary on Wednesday 4 July.

You propose a common animal welfare strategy for the EU. How good are we at caring for our animals in Europe?

We're certainly not the best in class. But I would say about a third are doing ok. Then you have a big mid-section where it varies greatly from farm to farm, but where the entire system is unfortunately supported by antibiotics. Now only Sweden and Denmark keep precise records on antibiotic use, something which has a great impact on public health.

Below that, you have member states which haven't got a clue what we're talking about. This is why we are now trying to build a foundation. At the moment, we just have a bunch of scattered rules. We need a common definition: what is animal welfare? Then we build the directives on that.

Such a definition could be decisive as free trade becomes increasingly important in agriculture and with the US, Canada and Australia currently at the forefront of the animal welfare debate.

But do the consumers take animal welfare into account in the supermarket?

Only about 15-20% actually shop the way they say they do. People still feel they've got themselves a bargain when they find pork tenderloin at the supermarket for three euros. But what kind of life do they think that pig had - at that price?

You're proposing "legal milestones" to ease implementation. Is this needed?

Take the laying hen directive: it's been close to 12 years. For the new EU countries it's only eight years, but they knew coming in what was asked when they joined and they agreed. The Commission's hands were tied until January 2012 and that meant everyone could just ignore it.

If you have an expensive restructuring like that with a long period of transition, I say you need one or two milestones along the way. It's not about giving Commission the right to take them to court, it's just about checking: how many new cages do you have? What actions are planned for the coming two to three years? Sometimes, it's good to point the finger at member states. It puts the issue back on the agenda.

Name and shame?

Indeed. And this is not just something needed in animal welfare legislation. If this passes, I expect legal milestones will be made standard practice for any EU legislation with a longer implementation period.