On the 9th of December, Commissioner Kyriakides and Dr Jane Goodall took part in the high level Conference “EU Animal welfare today & tomorrow”, gathering the main players in the field of animal welfare from the EU and beyond.
Animals are sentient beings. This is recognised in the EU treaties, and we have a moral and societal responsibility to ensure that on-farm conditions for animals reflect this. The reality is however that today, billions of animals around the world are kept in intensive conditions. Millions are shipped for very long distances. The fact that each farmed animal is a sentient being that is able to feel fear, despair and pain is at times ignored. They are not always treated with the care and respect they deserve. Changing this is a priority for the EU.
The Jane Goodall Institute has worked tirelessly, in partnership with local communities and farmers, to improve the lives of people, animals and the environment, introducing sustainable livelihood options that address local needs. These values mirror the beliefs and ambitions of the European Union, which places sustainability at the centre of improving its citizens’ lives, rights, working conditions, and the environment.
The EU is also leading by example on animal welfare in many areas. Since the adoption of the first EU animal welfare legislation in 1974, laws, regulations and multiple actions that protect our animals have been consistently expanded and reinforced, resulting in a better quality of life for millions of animals.
A strong commitment to animal welfare is among citizens’ growing concerns and demands. Everyone can help make a difference, and in the EU, citizens have been given the power to do just that. In 2020, over one million people joined together through a European Citizens’ Initiative calling on the EU to ‘End the Cage Age’. This led to unprecedented action and the EU Commission’s commitment to propose, in 2023, to phase out and finally prohibit cages for animals such as sows, calves, rabbits, hens, ducks, and geese.
But we still have a long way to go. Where possible, animals should live in an environment where they can behave naturally more of their lives, and us citizens, we need to move towards a more plant-based diet with less red and processed meat.
As we all know, climate change and loss of biodiversity are threatening our future. The health of humans, animals, plants, and even our planet, are all intrinsically linked. We humans are part of the natural world and depend on it for air, food, water – everything. But we also depend on healthy ecosystems, each one made up of interconnected plant and animal species.
The harm to the environment driven by our current demands on resources has led to increasing recurrences of droughts, floods, and new pests that pose significant threats to our food systems and habitats. To our future. They only highlight the need for sustainability in every aspect of our lives, including our food systems.
Our task is to build a robust and resilient food system that guarantees citizens a sufficient supply of affordable food, of good and safe quality and with the wellbeing of farmed animals front and centre. Animal welfare and health is both a cornerstone of this shift and the way forward.
The Commission’s ambition is, with the help of farmers, industry, animal welfare organisations and consumers, to maintain the EU’s status as world leader in animal welfare. We can only achieve this objective by putting people and partnerships at the centre of our approach.
The EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy is an unprecedented commitment to making food systems fair, healthy, environmentally and animal friendly and based on sustainable models of agriculture. A shift in this direction would not only benefit millions of farmed animals, but also the quality and safety of our food, our health, as well as the environment.
With the Farm to Fork Strategy, we have a unique opportunity to improve the lives of every being, both human and animal, always having as our guiding force that animal welfare matters. Let us aim high to the benefit of farming families, consumers, animals and our planet.
Commissioner Stella Kyriakides & Dr Jane Goodall