The importance of an adequate socio-economic impact assessment for the animal welfare legislative reform

Representatives of the European livestock value chain came together to address a letter to the EU Commissioners for Agriculture, Janus Wojciechowski, and Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, to express serious concerns about the ongoing revision of EU animal welfare legislation. The associations called for a thorough economic impact assessment as they consider the time and resources allocated to conduct an impact assessment on the on-farm animal welfare legislation were not adequate.

Although frequent requests were made to DG SANTE to provide all the means necessary for a holistic, thorough socio-economic review of all animal welfare legislation prior to commencing the legislative review, it seems the requests fell on deaf ears. The associations also asked for support from DG AGRI to share this request with DG SANTE counterparts.

There is strong concern about the grounds on which the Commission could assess any potential impact, as to date there is little indication of which policy options will be included in the future EU animal welfare legislation. And although the will is there, given the very tight time frames, the associations were unable to provide concrete socio-economic data from their side. Obtaining such data is a costly time-consuming process, requiring a timeline that does not currently match the political deadlines set by DG SANTE.

Additionally, the letter’s signatories highlight that the opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) were released later than expected, even though their purpose is to assist in the drafting of the future legislative text. According to the European livestock value chain representatives, the involvement of farmers, cooperatives, livestock traders, the meat industry and the entire value chain is key to ensuring coherence between different policies.

Farmers know better than anyone else how their animals feel and behave daily, and they are committed to ensuring high animal welfare standards across the entire European livestock sector. In this regard, DG AGRI plays an essential role in representing their interests at the Commission level, and it has a crucial role in preparing and implementing future legislation.

It is essential that policies are coherent and work hand-in-hand to promote animal welfare and sustainability in a balanced manner if Europe is to retain a competitive and productive livestock sector.

When it comes to financing, it is clear that the Common Agricultural Policy – CAP alone does not suffice to help farmers to make further improvements in terms of production standards, and on animal welfare. That’s why careful consideration should be taken as to how feasible such changes are both financially and physically, considering the distortions of competition within the internal market and how much it would cost.

It is clear that a socio-economic impact assessment, including inputs from stakeholders, is needed. Relevant experts need sufficient time to provide data and concrete measures to evaluate. All the costs and constraints that any potential transition would entail must be considered: building new facilities or refurbishing the existing ones, purchasing new tools, training employees, changing business plans, or asking for bank loans. Committed farmers need financial and institutional support to reduce the administrative and economic burden to the minimum. EU livestock production will only be sustainable if it remains dynamic, high-quality and competitive.