The first steps of the European Platform on Animal Welfare

Thursday 27 July 2017

The EU Animal Welfare Platform was launched in January 2017 by the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANCO) of the European Commission. What is its composition? How does it work? What are the objectives? Here are some questions that this article tries to answer.

The creation of the EU Platform on Animal Welfare was a commitment from Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. Wishing to build a constructive dialogue between the various actors working on the subject of animal welfare and to obtain the most balanced composition possible, the European Commission carefully selected the 75 members of the Platform. The elected people/organisations[1] – representing  agricultural sectors, NGOs, Member States, researchers and experts, but also the European Economic Area, EFSA and international bodies (FAO, OIE and World Bank) - met for the first time on the 6th of June in Brussels. This inaugural meeting allowed to reflect on how the Platform can achieve the following threefold objective: 

    • Contribute to a better implementation and understanding of the European legislation on animal welfare;
    • Support the promotion of European animal welfare standards at international level; and
    • Facilitate the development and use of voluntary commitments and valorise the market value of the products.

As recalled by Mr Andriukaitis in his opening speech, the Platform is not designed to create new standards. "There is already a substantial corpus of animal welfare rules and we are working on its proper enforcement," he said. It is true that the EU has the highest standards in the world and that the first objective of the European Commission is to complete the remaining 6 actions of the European Strategy on Animal Welfare 2012-2015[2]. This approach is also shared by the on-going Estonian Presidency, which, through its Minister for Agriculture Tarmo Tamm, said during the last meeting of the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament: "The recent Animal Welfare Platform is a good platform to exchange opinions and to coordinate our work. We support the idea of focusing on the better implementation of the existing legal framework and improving animal welfare by voluntary commitments".

What also drives the European Commission's action in this area are the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. It is therefore logical to hear Mrs Ramirez Vela, Head of Unit “Health and Food Safety” at DG SANCO, saying that the European Commission concentrates its action on issues and sectors for which the European action brings real added value and which covers a significant number of Member States and animals.

With a consultative role to the European Commission, "the Platform's success will depend heavily on the willingness of each stakeholder to engage and be part of the process" (V. Andriukaitis). On a subject that may be divisive, sometimes using philosophical considerations such as ethics, the European Commission will be careful enough to avoid issues that could trigger irreconcilable points of view. This is why the Platform should focus on a few areas where a consensus can be reached. At the first meeting, three themes were supported by several members: transport, labelling and pigs. The creation of sub-groups has even been requested.

The future will tell us whether this Platform with an ambitious mandate will succeed in achieving concrete results or whether it will be a place for fruitless discussions. Second meeting: 10 November 2017.



[1] See the full list of members: https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/welfare/eu-platform-animal-welfare/members_en

[2] More information on the 6 remaining actions :

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=E-2017-003724&language=EN

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