This week, Eurogroup for Animals publicly expressed its opposition to a proposed amendment which, if ever passed, would effectively make food businesses’ voluntary commitments for higher animal welfare illegal and would undermine earlier achievements of animal protection organisations.
Two weeks ago, as part of the discussions on the proposal for a Directive on Unfair Trading Practices in Business-to-Business Relationships in the Food Supply Chain (“the UTPs Directive”), the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (“The AGRI Committee”) adopted an amendment threatening the legality of voluntary animal welfare commitments by retailers and food suppliers. This amendment was put forward by four MEPs (Albert Deß, Peter Jahr, Norbert Lins, Jens Gieseke) of the EPP Group (European People’s Party).
More specifically, amendment 65 to the UTPs Directive seeks to prohibit “provisions laid down by the buyer regarding environmental protection and animal welfare standards which are more stringent than the relevant legal provisions in force.” In other words, this amendment would prevent retailers, such as supermarket chains or catering services, from meeting their commitments for farm animal welfare by making it illegal for them to source products exclusively from cage-free egg producers, or higher welfare breeds for broiler chicken farms, for example. This proposed amendment would thus effectively undermine the successes animal advocates have achieved through corporate campaigns over the past decade, while also hurdling potential market-driven advancements of farm animal welfare.
Corporate campaigns have been instrumental in moving the industry towards better animal welfare practices in the absence of satisfying animal welfare standards in EU law. For instance, while the EU Directive on the welfare of egg-laying hens still allows for so-called “enriched cages”, major retailers, such as Marks & Spencer or Carrefour, have committed to moving on to only selling eggs from hens kept in cage-free systems.
In preparation for the inter-institutional negotiations on the proposed UTPs Directive, Eurogroup for Animals co-signed a letter with other NGOs this week, calling on all MEPs to request from the AGRI Committee’s rapporteur, Paolo De Castro (S&D, IT), to preserve animal welfare and environmental protection standards that go beyond the minimum legal standards. Even though both the European Commission and the Council will likely reject the proposed amendment during the inter-institutional negotiations, Eurogroup for Animals wished to clearly state its opposition to the supporters of amendment 65, while reiterating its commitment to support corporate pledges in favor of higher farm animal welfare.
Alice Di Concetto, Farm Animal Program Officer