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Monday, 11 June 2001 - Strasbourg OJ edition

Animal welfare

  Kindermann (PSE).(DE) Mr President, we greatly welcome the fact that the issue of animal welfare is being discussed by the Council and the Commission in the European Parliament today. The Community's obligation to take full account of animal welfare requirements within the framework of its agricultural policy is anchored in the Treaty of Amsterdam. The question which now arises in this context is whether this is sufficient for the Community or whether there should be European framework legislation on animal welfare in future.

Sadly, animal welfare is not understood the same way everywhere. Laws are one thing; the actual treatment of, and attitude towards, animals are another. The responsibility for animals as living creatures falls exclusively on humans. For this reason, it is important to start teaching children how to treat animals responsibly when they are still very young. Anyone who goes on to handle animals in the course of their work, who farms them or transports them, must have a certificate proving their suitability and skills.

Animal welfare also has an impact on farms' competitiveness, however. There will have to be restrictions on livestock farming for economic purposes in future too. Demands for optimum conditions, which often stem from emotional responses, cannot always be translated directly into practice. Viable solutions must be devised. The classification of animals as farm animals, breeding animals and pets is not an arbitrary one, after all. Economic considerations and global competition ultimately compel us to adopt specific conditions of animal husbandry, thus limiting the scope for truly animal-centred livestock farming.

However, these farming conditions must be shaped in a way which ensures that animals have the maximum scope for natural behaviour. Political decisions on animal welfare can now be based on comprehensive scientific knowledge of the different species. The laws on animal welfare should only be developed and improved with the involvement of those concerned. In a holistic view of animal protection, the animals' natural behaviour and needs should be compatible with environmental concerns and consumer protection, but also with the expectation of profit. Our society's high standards of hygiene must also not be compromised. After all, more consumer protection ultimately leads to better conditions of animal welfare.

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