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Procedure : 2012/2043(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0216/2012

Texts tabled :

A7-0216/2012

Debates :

PV 02/07/2012 - 23
CRE 02/07/2012 - 23

Votes :

PV 04/07/2012 - 7.13
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2012)0290

Debates
Monday, 2 July 2012 - Strasbourg OJ edition

23. Strategy for the protection and welfare of animals (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the debate on the report by Marit Paulsen, on behalf of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, on the European Union strategy for the protection and welfare of animals 2012-2015 (2012/2043(INI)) (A7-0216/2012).

 
  
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  Marit Paulsen, rapporteur.(SV) Madam President, Commissioners, ladies and gentlemen, it has been an intensive, but wonderful job to produce this animal protection strategy, which I have to say is well balanced. The shadow rapporteurs have worked in an excellent way, our staff have done a fantastic job, and we have succeeded in reaching an agreement with everyone from animal protection organisations to farmers, etc.

Some sensitive issues are yet to be resolved in this debate, and one of them is the legal milestones, in which regard we have concluded that the Commission needs an opportunity to monitor the Member States during a transitional period. You will remember what happened with regard to cages for hens. It was a 10-year transitional period and the Commission was not able to do anything before 2 January this year, when the 10 years were already up. We need to have a few points at which we can check and ask what the Member States are doing to implement legislation with transitional periods. It is these milestones that are a little controversial.

The other thing that is very controversial – and we have received a great many questions concerning this – is slaughter without stunning. Many people want us to label meat with whether or not un-stunned slaughter was used. I have to say that I, personally, think that is the wrong way to go. Let us first and foremost ensure that the religious derogation, which is very small and very precise, is not misused. I believe that anyone who misuses this derogation will never write on the carcass that this is an animal that was slaughtered without stunning.

The third thing that is controversial is stray pets, that is to say, stray dogs and cats. This is a problem in many countries, and how it should be tackled is extremely problematic. In our document, we place the responsibility primarily on the Member States and on local and regional authorities. We are also calling for all pets, in other words, dogs and cats, etc. to be labelled and to have a register.

The most important thing in this proposal, however, is a general animal welfare law that is similar to the general food law in structure. This legislation will cover all animals in captivity, in other words, all animals except those roaming free in the wild. It is to contain clear definitions of good animal care and also of who bears the responsibility. We need a sharing of knowledge, and – in order to respond to the counter proposal that has been tabled on cloning – we need to specify in the law that no breeding may be carried out that would mean that the animal cannot live a natural life, and this applies to everything from cows to dogs.

Finally, a general law and general rules will provide free and fair competition for all farmers throughout the Union, and that last point is very important.

 
  
 

Catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, this report is aimed primarily at protecting animals kept for farming purposes and pet animals, but I would like to take this opportunity to draw your attention to the dolphins in the Black Sea. These animals are endangered at the moment, given that over 300 dolphins were stranded on the Black Sea shores in the last two months alone. They are victims of fishing methods, illegal fishing, but also of pollution. We cannot remain indifferent to the dramatic situation of these intelligent, beautiful and sensitive creatures. For this reason, along with four other fellow Members, we have tabled Written Declaration No 23 concerning the protection of the dolphins in the Black Sea. We call for additional measures to ensure their protection, for instance, by using acoustic devices, but also closer cooperation with non-Member States, including within the Black Sea Synergy.

I hereby appeal to all fellow Members to sign Written Declaration No 23 concerning the protection of the dolphins in the Black Sea.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Madam President, modern consumers expect farm livestock to benefit from the same things that we, as human beings, perceive as necessities: good food, good living conditions and appropriate medical care. Animal health standards are of vital importance for livestock management in Europe, which has an increasing impact on the level of competitiveness of agricultural holdings.

I think all Member States should make effective use of the opportunities for assistance offered by the EU rural development funds, as well as by the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-2013) of DG Research, in order to promote applied research and invest in innovative and modern animal welfare solutions. In this context, it is beneficial that the Member States and the European Commission increase financial investments in research and development of new animal welfare techniques and technologies.

 
  
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  Csaba Sándor Tabajdi (S&D).(HU) Madam President, Commissioner Dalli, the new rules concerning the keeping of egg-laying hens in cages was met with great bewilderment in Hungary. The general opinion among experts and the media is that it was conceived by Brussels bureaucrats who have perhaps in all their lives never seen chicken outside a restaurant. Once again, legislation very unfavourable for the new Member States was adopted. While the old Member States had 13 years to prepare for it, the new ones only had eight, and they also had to implement several environmental investments in the poultry sector prior to and after their accession. Unfortunately, we are once again seeing the application of double standards, and I therefore do not think that the imposition of this requirement has helped improve the prestige of the European Union. It was met with great bewilderment, even though I, too, find animal welfare extremely important.

 
  
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  Kartika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL).(NL) Madam President, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development’s animal welfare strategy includes a couple of good points, but under the current proposal, a great many animals will be left out. I therefore added two points, in an alternative resolution, which Parliament approved by a large majority previously.

In other respects, the resolution is identical to the Paulsen report. The first addition is a limit of eight hours for animal transport. When animals are being transported to the slaughterhouse, it must not last an unnecessarily long time. More than a million citizens have put their signature to this. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is in favour of shorter transport, and a majority of this House also advocates this. I hope that Members will therefore also vote in favour on Wednesday.

The second addition is a ban on products from cloned animals and their offspring. Cloning shows total disregard for the dignity of animals. Over 90% of all cloned animals are not born alive, or are born critically ill. Not many citizens want that kind of food. Parliament has previously shown its united opposition to cloning, and Wednesday is the last chance to send out a signal. Please vote in favour of the alternative resolution.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR).(PL) Madam President, I would like to congratulate Ms Paulsen on a very good report. Ms Paulsen, you have approached this difficult subject with great sensitivity, but also with a large dose of realism. The measures you have proposed are very practical and to the point. I would like to highlight three issues.

Firstly, you have drawn attention to the problem of funding. We will not achieve higher standards of animal welfare without additional expenditure. It needs to be understood at last that this will not be done without money.

The second matter – you have dealt with this quite extensively – is the problem of trade relations and the need to include the issue of animal welfare in our approach to trade with other countries. We should simply make it a requirement that those who export their products to the European market apply the same standards as we do.

Finally, my third point: you have noted the very complex problem of pets. It is time we established uniform standards for the treatment of these animals in the European Union, because such standards still do not exist.

 
  
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  Giancarlo Scottà (EFD).(IT) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank Ms Paulsen for her report. I find it very odd that in such a prestigious House, where important decisions will be taken, there are still those who, in an ambiguous, anachronistic spirit of animal welfare, waste precious time and cost all European citizens and taxpayers money, with no benefit to human welfare or health.

Faced with a text that is potentially of great interest to animal lovers – I am one too – and that will naturally have positive consequences for animals themselves, people are seeking to table amendments that undermine all the premises of the text and the very meaning of our friends’ welfare, with abstract suggestions of no legal or ethical value.

Therefore, I cannot help wondering whether we should be investing – maybe I should say ‘wasting’ – time and resources to deal with proposals devoid of any practical interest for Europeans. Consequently, I shall be voting for Ms Paulsen’s report.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška (EFD). (SK) Madam President, tardiness in the implementation of legislation, with long transition periods and a failure to emphasise the enforcement of compliance in application practice, creates opportunities for various kinds of fraudster.

A classic example of this is Council Directive 1999/74/EC laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens. It introduced the abolition of battery farming in the EU 12 years ago, and despite the fact that 1 January 2012 was the date of its general entry into effect, not all countries were ready for this step. Hungary, France, Spain and Poland pushed for postponements up to the last minute, and it is doubtful whether they had actually managed to relocate all laying hens by the date in question.

It is now right to ask what is happening with the eggs from farms that do not comply with the directive. The last food scandal in Slovakia began in mid-July this year with an epidemic of salmonella in three school facilities in Komárno. Fifty-six children displayed clinical signs of the illness. After investigating the source of the infection, veterinarians discovered eggs with false country of origin markings. According to a statement from the Ministry, almost 2 million of these eggs found their way onto the Slovak market.

 
  
 

End of the catch-the-eye procedure

 
  
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  John Dalli, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, I am pleased to see that many events and discussions have taken place this year in the European Parliament, in the Council and elsewhere, in the light of the Commission’s communication which introduced the EU Animal Welfare Strategy.

The strategy proposes a new approach to the future of animal welfare in Europe. After nearly 40 years of legislation, there is still room for improvement in this field, across the EU. The strategy is about better enforcement of EU legislation, better information for consumers, a simplified legislative framework and a focus on education and technical assistance to stakeholders at grassroots level. Before addressing specific issues, let me first express my appreciation for the excellent work of the rapporteur, Ms Paulsen, who has produced a balanced report on this complex and highly sensitive area.

I am glad to note that Parliament supports the Commission’s view on the key elements of the strategy: proposing a simplified framework law that, while taking into due account specificities of particular species and sectors, covers all animals kept in the context of an economic activity; considering a European network of reference centres for animal welfare to ensure that competent authorities receive uniform technical information on the way that EU legislation should be implemented and to disseminate expertise, research findings and technical innovation; developing animal welfare indicators in the framework law to optimise animal welfare outcomes – and I am aware that there are remaining issues of practicability to be considered here; and introducing legal milestones to help ensure that Member States implement new legislation properly. In addition, the report emphasises the need to ensure better enforcement of existing legislation – something that is also of central concern to the Commission.

I share the views expressed in Ms Paulsen’s report on the importance of supporting and optimising international cooperation in the multilateral arena, especially the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) – as well as in bilateral negotiations, by including animal welfare in negotiations with third countries – and on promoting EU views and understanding on welfare standards. This is all the more important because food production has, in the meantime, become a global activity with a possible influence, inter alia, on competitiveness.

There are, however, some elements of this report on which the Commission has not formed a definitive position, and on which more reflection is needed before any action is proposed. For example, the report suggests that the Commission should consider developing a coherent EU-wide labelling scheme for producers, which would go beyond the current legislation on labelling. I, too, would like EU producers who wish to improve the welfare of animals beyond minimum standards to receive a better price. However, we need to consider all options carefully, and indeed to ask whether a legislative approach would be the most appropriate.

The report also calls for mandatory animal welfare measures in the framework of rural development programmes. As honourable Members will know, the revision of the regulation on rural development programmes is part of the revision of the CAP. This idea would therefore be best explored within the context of CAP reform discussions. I do, however, share the view expressed in the report about improving coherence in our overall approach. Animal welfare is a cross-cutting issue on which a range of other policies have an impact. I therefore consider this to be a very sound and useful suggestion.

Let me turn to the welfare of pet animals. The Commission has agreed to make a series of studies, including one on this specific issue in the context of the strategy. On the basis of the results of this exercise, we will consider how best to proceed.

Allow me to address one issue relating to animal transport, which ties into the important discussion on animal welfare. Some weeks ago, I had the pleasure and the honour of receiving a delegation that handed me a petition to legislate for an eight-hour transport limit. I explained that, for various reasons, we are not in a position to agree to this request, although we will be tackling the issue in the context of the revision of the Framework Law on Animal Welfare – which is proposed as part of the Animal Welfare Strategy we are discussing today and which could suggest, inter alia, new tools to improve the enforcement of animal welfare legislation, including during transport.

I have been consistent in saying that enforcement is key to the issue of animal transport, and in saying that the Commission is not considering proposing any changes to the Animal Transport Regulation.

In Council on 18 June 2012, I stated that we have proposed a broad array of legislative and non-legislative actions to improve the welfare of animals during transport substantially. I have to admit that I have particular sympathy for the situation of animals travelling excessively long journey times to slaughter. As I announced at that Council meeting, I am ready to examine all data that could shed light on this issue. We must also look into the proposals in the Animal Welfare Strategy which, I believe, contains several actions that have the potential to improve the welfare of animals during transport substantially.

I would like to comment on a couple of other points. First of all, on the incomprehension in Hungary over the issue of cages for laying hens, I must say that the directive in question was enacted 12 years ago. The prescribed transition period ended at the end of last year and, while some countries had a shorter time to prepare and change, one has to consider that all these countries, including my own country, negotiated about this directive during their accession negotiations. Therefore, everyone knew exactly what the timeframe and the commitments were.

On cloning, I have also gone on record many times to say that the Commission is currently undertaking an in-depth impact assessment of the cloning issue, and I will be coming before this Parliament and the Council with a proposal on a stand-alone directive on cloning.

To conclude, may I once again thank Parliament and, in particular, Ms Paulsen and her team, for this valuable report. I look forward to Parliament and the Commission making further progress together as the strategy unfolds.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place on Wednesday.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Liam Aylward (ALDE), in writing.(GA) I agree with the views of the rapporteur about the complexity of European and national rules on animal welfare and violations of those rules and how they distort competitiveness. There are great differences at present between the animal welfare requirements of Member States. The greatest barrier to the improvement of animal welfare standards in Europe arises from difficulties in implementing the rules given the lack of legal milestone schedules. I echo the report’s recommendations on increasing the resources of the Food and Veterinary Office for the purpose of regulating Member State animal welfare inspections and of penalising infringements. The debate included an interesting discussion on transportation of animals and the current campaign to put an eight-hour time limit on that transportation. While another report will deal with that issue in the coming weeks, it must be said here also that effective implementation and enforcement is the best way to ensure that the law is being put into practice in Member States and that animals are transported humanely.

 
  
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  Robert Dušek (S&D), in writing. – (CS) The report on the European Union strategy for the protection and welfare of animals is an attempt to achieve clear and uniformly high levels of animal welfare cross the EU, as there are still enormous differences within the Union and between different species of animal. A high level of animal welfare is a natural component of sustainable development, and is essential for maintaining animal health and human health, as well as the productivity and competitiveness of the livestock sector. Legislation should be clear and unambiguous, so that it can be controlled easily and quickly. The penalties for any failure to comply must be strict, as we encounter the ‘discord’ of deliberate non-application of some regulations ever more often. Situations such as this have occurred in non-compliance with the directive on the laying hens industry. It is important to realise that the essence of the common market is compliance with jointly specified conditions. Entities that follow the rules as a matter of course must not be disadvantaged by others that break them and thereby gain a competitive advantage on the market, for example, through lower production or operating costs. This is completely unacceptable in future. I would like to emphasise that the EU has to demand that third-country imports into the EU meet the same standards and rules as apply in the EU. In that way, we will limit the unlawful disadvantaging of our farmers, and contribute to the better treatment of animals in third countries. I fully support adoption of the European Animal Welfare Framework Law.

 
  
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  Tiziano Motti (PPE), in writing.(IT) I voted for the new European Union strategy for the protection and welfare of animals. Animal welfare should be protected at European level given that often, the protection afforded at national level is insufficient. Modern consumers reasonably expect farm livestock to be entitled to the same necessities as humans are: good food, good living conditions and appropriate medical care. Above all, animal health standards are of vital importance for livestock management in Europe, which has an increasing impact on the level of competitiveness of agricultural holdings. As we all know by now, the Treaty of Lisbon declared that animals are ‘sentient beings’, and we should therefore treat them as such. This goes for pets, farm livestock, animals for slaughter and stray dogs. I hope that measures will soon be adopted that are more precise and respectful of the life of animals, including animals for slaughter: I am thinking of how they are transported, when they are often considered carcasses instead of animals that are still alive.

 
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