It is astonishing that while most EU citizens, animal welfare scientists and even the European Commission have recognised the urgent need to improve farm animal welfare, a majority of the Parliament’s AGRI Committee members are so out of touch with welfare conditions on many EU farms. It beggars belief that AGRI MEPs endorsed the fallacious claim that “no reliable solutions whatsoever have been found thus far for the problem of tail-biting in pigs”, while the truth is that both Finland and Sweden have long implemented a full ban on routine tail-docking and sought to address the challenge of tail-biting through proper environmental enrichments, something that the Pigs Directive already demands. When it comes to animal welfare, the European Parliament really needs to resist the determined efforts of economic interests to undermine and impede the measures sorely needed to advance animal welfare. What we are asking for, and what the public supports is substantiated by hard science
Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe
Crucially, MEPs explicitly reiterated their support for an end for caged confinement of farm animals by 2027. When the Commission delivers its legislative proposals in 2023, we’ll certainly be reminding them that backing out on this is not what the 1.4 million EU citizens who signed the End the Cage Age European Citizens Initiative will accept.
Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe
Amongst other things, the adopted report acknowledges that our current food system, including animal and crop production, must be brought within planetary boundaries. It calls for an accelerated transformation away from intensive animal agricultural practices and emphasises that a population-wide shift in consumption patterns is needed to increase the consumption of plant-based foods and address the overconsumption of meat and ultra-processed products
Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europ
While the Farm to Fork report as adopted in committee could have been considerably stronger, we recognise that it is the product of lengthy negotiations between the political groups. It is also a remarkable result given that from the outset the agricultural lobby has done its utmost to undermine the Commission’s ambitious plans to radically overhaul the existing food system in a desperate bid to maintain ‘business as usual’, particularly with regard to the overproduction and consumption of meat and other animal products, and the necessary transition to more sustainable plant-based diets.
Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs at Humane Society International/Europe
In itself such a forward-thinking report is a major achievement, given how many of the colossal 2,295 proposed amendments to it were industry-driven efforts to cling on to the status quo. It is high time that the conflict of interests of MEPs who are responsible for deciding EU farming policy be properly addressed by EU lawmakers. There is sufficient evidence that various AGRI committee members receive additional income from agricultural activities, including CAP funds. Having these foxes in charge of the henhouse provides a partial explanation for the general unwillingness to embrace systemic change in farming practices and to favour economic interests above progressive environmental protection and animal welfare.
Dr Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs at Humane Society International/Europe
Wildlife around the globe is under intense pressure from human activity and over-exploitation. Illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, poor governance and corruption have significant negative impacts on ecosystems and result in the loss of multiple wild species, affecting the integrity of whole ecosystems, contributing to climate change, and damaging local livelihoods, economic development and security. The coronavirus pandemic should be a wake-up call to humanity. COVID-19 is the latest in a long line of zoonotic diseases that have wreaked havoc with human health and society. The more we continue to exploit animals, destroy animals’ natural habitats and lose biodiversity, the greater the opportunities for emerging infectious diseases to spread to human populations.
Dr. Joanna Swabe, senior director of public affairs for Humane Society International/Europe
The current COVID-19 pandemic and other disease outbreaks of zoonotic origin such as SARS and Ebola have clearly demonstrated the critical need to apply a truly trans-sectoral One Health approach, as a matter of urgency. We believe that efforts must be focused on preventing pandemics of zoonotic origin at their source­—in other words, stopping them at the point of pathogen spillover from animals to humans, well before they can become local outbreaks, epidemics, or global pandemics. We have borne witness to the devastation caused to human communities by the current coronavirus pandemic. Concerted global action is needed to ensure that the next pandemic is stopped in its tracks.
Arnaud Goessens, senior manager EU policy for the Wildlife Conservation Society
The link between emerging zoonotic diseases, the exploitation of wild animals and the human destruction of their natural habitats is beyond doubt. We must also not forget that the EU is active in the trade in wildlife, being both a destination market and a hub for the trade of wildlife in transit to other regions, particularly from Africa destined for Asia. The EU Biodiversity Strategy makes an explicit connection between wildlife trade and the emergence of zoonotic diseases. To reduce the risks posed to human health—as well as to protect animal welfare—we strongly advocate maintaining wild animals in secure and intact habitats and minimizing wild animal-human interaction by severely limiting wild animal trade and use. The European Commission has a great opportunity to deliver on this through a robust revision of the existing EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking.
Ilaria Di Silvestre, head of EU policy & campaigns for IFAW’s EU Office
“This vote signals the need for systemic change in the EU’s approach to safety science and health research, with Parliament embracing an historic opportunity to take animal suffering out of the equation and shift the focus to modern, human relevant technologies. If our goal isn’t to cure cancer in mice or prevent birth defects in rabbits, we need to let go of the unfounded belief that these animals are miniature people and get serious about understanding and predicting human biology in the real world. Human organ-chips, stem cell models and next-generation computing allow us to do exactly that, and can deliver considerable benefits in the study of uniquely human diseases and the assessment of potential new medicines and chemical safety generally. Today with this historic vote, the EU Parliament is calling for pro-active and coherent policies to phase-out animal experiments, such as preferential funding for non-animal methods, training scientists in new technologies and key regulatory changes to chemicals legislation. We call on the Commission to embrace these proposals and recognise that an Action Plan to hasten our departure from animal-based science is in all our interests.”
Troy Seidle, Humane Society International’s vice president for research and toxicology