Parliamentary questions
8 June 2018
Question for oral answer
to the Commission
Rule 128
Karin Kadenbach, Georges Bach, Catherine Bearder, Dominique Bilde, Richard Corbett, Miriam Dalli, Isabella De Monte, Jørn Dohrmann, Pascal Durand, Stefan Eck, Eleonora Evi, John Flack, Jacqueline Foster, Eugen Freund, Arne Gericke, Michela Giuffrida, Karoline Graswander-Hainz, Jytte Guteland, Martin Häusling, Anja Hazekamp, Maria Heubuch, John Howarth, Jude Kirton-Darling, Jeppe Kofod, Zdzisław Krasnodębski, Jean Lambert, Jo Leinen, Arne Lietz, Edouard Martin, Alex Mayer, Ana Miranda, Marlene Mizzi, Maria Noichl, Younous Omarjee, Massimo Paolucci, Sirpa Pietikäinen, Pavel Poc, Evelyn Regner, Michèle Rivasi, Pirkko Ruohonen-Lerner, Davor Škrlec, Bart Staes, Keith Taylor, Thomas Waitz, Josef Weidenholzer

 Subject: Animal welfare, antimicrobial use and the environmental impact of industrial broiler farming

Directive 2007/43/EC lays down minimum standards for the protection of chickens kept for meat production. However, the Commission report on the impact of the Directive on animal welfare failed to demonstrate any significant improvements, and showed that enforcement is, at best, inconsistent across Member States. The harsh reality is that broiler chickens are reared in the tens of thousands in barren sheds, on wet litter, and without any possibility of engaging in natural behaviours such as perching, pecking enrichment substrates, or enjoying natural light. Moreover, the Directive does not address the negative consequences in terms of animal welfare that directly derive from selection for fast growth, a problem that has been stressed in several European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinions as well as in a Commission report. These poor conditions often necessitate mass treatments with antibiotics to prevent or contain disease outbreaks, which is of serious concern in relation to public health. Several strains of poultry pathogens capable of causing serious diseases in humans are now showing resistance to antibiotics used in poultry production, as is the case for Campylobacter spp. and Salmonella spp. Multi-drug resistance in strains of E.coli found in poultry and poultry meat were recently defined as extremely worrying by EFSA.

At the same time, a recent report by Greenpeace identifies industrial poultry production as a major contributor to ammonia pollution of air, soil and water and calls on the Commission to stop subsidising mega-farms in favour of more sustainable systems and practices. Efforts are under way on the part of the poultry industry to reduce both antimicrobial use and environmental impact, but if we look at the sector from a ‘One Health’ and ‘One Welfare’ perspective, it is clear that a comprehensive approach is urgently required to make the poultry industry more sustainable and animal-welfare friendly, while also maintaining its economic viability.

1. Will the Commission take decisive action to improve enforcement of the Broilers Directive, specifically as regards the systematic and consistent use of harmonised animal-based indicators to improve animal welfare on farms?

2. What actions is the Commission envisaging to support alternative chicken production systems – for instance those that use higher welfare breeds, lower stocking densities, environmental enrichment, access to natural light and/or outdoor enclosures, and better air quality – considering that such systems can help decrease ammonia emissions and reduce the need for the indiscriminate use of antimicrobials, as well as improving animal welfare?

3. When will the Commission publish the report on the socioeconomic effects of the mandatory method of production labelling for chicken meat foreseen by Article 5 of Directive 2007/43/EC?

Last updated: 12 June 2018Legal notice