Animal welfare at heart of European organic farming proposals

By Chloe Ryan

- Last updated on GMT

Organic farming is meant to meet high animal welfare and environmental standards
Organic farming is meant to meet high animal welfare and environmental standards

Related tags: Organic farming, European union, European parliament

Organic farming standards across Europe could be tightened up with a greater emphasis on animal welfare when the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee meets on 13 October to discuss proposed amendments to existing regulations.

A meeting of the Committee on 12 and 13 October has been scheduled to discuss the future of organic farming in Europe, with a vote taking place on 13 October to decide the Committee’s position.

Among the numerous proposed amendments to existing legislation is that organically certified livestock be given anaesthesia for painful procedures - something that isn’t required by law in conventional farming and wasn’t written into the previous standards for organic farming.

One of the amendments in the draft European Parliament legislative resolution states: “Attaching elastic bands to the tails of sheep and tail-docking may be authorised by the competent authority for reasons of safety or animal and human health or if they are intended to improve the health, welfare or hygiene of the livestock. Dehorning of young mammals should be approved only if adequate anaesthesia and analgesia are applied​.”


Animal welfare groups are interpreting the vote as a major opportunity to ensure better farm animal welfare. “Will they grasp this opportunity​?” said Olga Kikou, Compassion In World Farming European affairs manager. “Mutilations, tethering and long distance transport do not belong in organic farming, which is meant to meet high animal welfare and environmental standards​.

The European Commission’s proposal for a new EU legal framework on organic farming offers an important opportunity for Members of the European Parliament to improve animal welfare in farming. As proposed by the Environment Committee in its own Opinion on Organic Farming, the Agriculture Committee should also propose to restrict live animal transport to a maximum of eight hours for mammals and four hours for poultry​,” Kikou added. “Appropriate and humane pre-stunning should be compulsory for all organic animals at time of slaughter. Well-defined rules for humane slaughter should be set in the regulation for each species​.”

If the vote to amend organic legislation is passed on 13 October, it will then be passed to the European Parliament for consideration. 

The European Parliament has an obligation to act on behalf of its citizens to build and maintain consumer trust in organic animal products. The vote in the Agriculture Committee is the next major step of a much larger battle, but MEPs must now send a strong signal to the European Commission and Council, to let them know that change is on the way.

Related topics: Meat

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