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Animal welfare

Moving to cage-free farming as part of sustainability transition can be win-win for environment and animals, finds new think tank report

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Ending the caging of animals, as part of a transformative change in animal agriculture, could make farming more sustainable and could bring better rural jobs, finds a new report by a sustainability think tank working on EU policy.

In the new report launched today (13 October), the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) explored the environmental and societal benefits and trade-offs of ending the use of cages in the production of egg-laying hens, pigs and rabbits in the EU.

If paired with ambitious actions on addressing overconsumption, reducing protein imports and implementing large-scale organic conversion of animal farming, a cage-free farming transition could trigger the much needed environmental and socio-economic transformation, finds the report.

The study was commissioned by Compassion in World Farming to provide an evidence-based assessment and inform EU policymakers ahead of a key decision on whether to end the use of cages in animal farming. Earlier this month, the European Commission received a European Citizens’ Initiative signed by 1.4 million people across Europe calling for a phaseout of the use of cages in EU farming. The Commission has six months to respond to the ‘End the Cage Age’ initiative.

Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and one of the organizers of the Initiative, said: “Factory farming is one of the worst offenders for the systemic breakdown of our one and only planet. The cage is not only a symbol for our broken food and farming system but it is one of the key pillars that keep this outdated model alive. We need a food and farming revolution. Let’s start by ending the cage age!”

Elisa Kollenda, policy analyst at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, said: “Our research finds that advancing a transition towards cage-free farming as part of a wider sustainability transition can be a win-win for both environmental sustainability and animal welfare. The recent Farm to Fork Strategy signals the need to review and improve farm animal welfare legislation alongside many other steps to improve the sustainability of production and consumption. The linkages between the two need to be clearer in the debate.”

  1. For over 50 years, Compassion in World Farming has campaigned for farm animal welfare and sustainable food and farming. We have over one million supporters and representations in 11 European countries, the US, China and South Africa.
  1. The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) is a sustainability think-tank with over 40 years of experience, committed to advancing evidence-based and impact-driven sustainability policy across the EU and the world. IEEP works with a range of policymakers, from local to European level, NGOs and the private sector, to provide evidence-based policy research, analysis and advice. IEEP’s work is independent and informed by a diverse set of views, with the aim of advancing knowledge and raising awareness; and to promoting evidence-based policymaking for greater sustainability in Europe.
  1. Today, on 13 October 2020, IEEP presented the Transitioning towards cage-free farming in the EU report to representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission at a webinar organised by Compassion in World Farming.

IEEP conducted an independent study, commissioned by Compassion in World Farming, on how a transition to cage-free farming could support a sustainability transition in the animal farming sector while delivering wider positive benefits to society. The report presents a selection of policy tools and stakeholder actions that would support a transition to a cage-free EU, compiled through stakeholder consultations and a literature review. It describes three scenarios of how both farm animal welfare and the sustainability of production and consumption can be addressed simultaneously. Greater implications for almost all aspects of sustainability can be expected if the cage-free transition is accompanied by changes in the scale of consumption and production of animal products and if there is a substantial departure from the current large-scale use of concentrated feeds, including imported proteins.

  1. On 2 October 2020, the European Commission received a European Citizens’ Initiative signed by 1.4 million people in 28 European countries which calls on the EU to phase out the use of cages for farmed animals. End the Cage Age’ is only the sixth European Citizens’ Initiative to reach the required threshold of 1 million signatures since the first Initiative was launched over eight years ago. It is the very first successful Initiative for farmed animals.

Animal welfare

Time to listen to citizens and trust technology when it comes to slaughter

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The conversation on slaughter without stunning is bouncing around Europe for different reasons: animal welfare, religion, economy. The practice means killing animals while still fully conscious and it is used in some religious traditions, such as the Jewish and Muslim ones, to produce respectively kosher and halal meat, writes Reineke Hameleers.

The Polish parliament and senate are voting on the Five for animals bill, which, among other measures, includes a restriction on the possibility of ritual slaughter. Jewish communities and politicians across Europe are calling on Polish authorities to scrap the ban on kosher meat exports (Poland is one of the biggest European exporters of kosher meat).

The request though doesn’t take into account what EU Citizens, Polish included, have just expressed in the opinion poll Eurogroup for Animals recently released. The majority clearly supports higher animal welfare standards declaring that: it should be mandatory to make animals unconscious before they are slaughtered (89%); countries should be able to adopt additional measures that ensure higher animal welfare standards (92%); the EU should require all animals to be stunned before being slaughtered, even for religious reasons (87%); the EU should prioritise funding for alternative practices for slaughtering animals in humane ways that are also accepted by religious groups (80%).

While the results unequivocally show the civil society position against slaughter without stunning, this should not be interpreted as a threat to religious freedom, as some try to picture it. It represents the level of attention and care Europeans have towards animals, which is also enshrined in the EU Treaty defining animals as sentient beings.

The EU law says that all animals must be made unconscious before being killed, with exceptions in the context of some religious practices. Several countries like Slovenia, Finland, Denmark, Sweden and two regions of Belgium (Flanders and Wallonia) adopted stricter rules with no exceptions to the mandatory stunning of animals before slaughter.

In Flanders, as well as in Wallonia, the parliament adopted the law almost unanimously (0 votes against, only a few abstentions). The law was the result of a long process of democratic decision making which included hearings with the religious communities, and received cross-party support. It is key to understand that the ban refers to slaughter without stunning and it is not a ban on religious slaughter.

These rules aim at ensuring higher welfare for animals being slaughtered in the context of religious rites. Indeed the European Food Safety Authority concluded that serious welfare problems are highly likely to occur after the throat cut, since the animal - still conscious - can feel anxiety, pain and distress. Also, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) acknowledged that “particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites that are carried out without pre-stunning are not tantamount, in terms of serving a high level of animal welfare at the time of killing”.

Nowadays reversible stunning allows for the protection of animals being slaughtered in the context of religious rites without interfering with the rites per se. It causes unconsciousness through electronarcosis, so the animals are still alive when their throat is cut.

Acceptance of stunning methods is increasing among religious communities in Malaysia, India, Middle- East, Turkey, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Given what citizens expressed in the opinion poll, and the possibilities offered by technology, European Member States should be able to adopt additional measures that ensure higher animal welfare standards, like the Belgian region of Flanders which introduced such a measure in 2017 and is now threatened to have it reversed by the CJEU.

It’s time for our leaders to base their decisions on sound science, unequivocal case law, accepted alternatives to slaughter without stunning, and strong democratic, moral values. It’s time to pave the way to real progress in the EU instead of turning the clock backwards.

The opinions expresed in the above article are those of the author alone, and do not reflect any opinions on the part of EU Reporter.

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Animal welfare

Parliamentarians and Jewish community leaders from across Europe unite to call on Poland to scrap animal welfare bill seeking to ban export of kosher meat

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A vote on the animal welfare bill is expected in the Polish Senate tomorrow (13 October).

Dozens of parliamentarians from across Europe, including Senators, MPs, MEPs and the UK House of Lords, and Jewish community leaders from various European countries have joined forces in a letter calling on the Polish authorities to scrap part of an animal welfare bill that seeks a ban on the export of kosher meat from Poland, writes .

A vote on this bill is expected in the Polish Senate tomorrow (13 October).

A move to ban the export of kosher meat from Poland would severely impact Jewish communities across the continent who, either by size or limited resources, rely heavily on Poland as a supplier of kosher meat. This country is one of the biggest European exporters of kosher meat.

The parliamentarians and Jewish leader signatories also emphasized that the bill sets a dangerous precedent as it puts animal welfare rights clearly ahead of the fundamental European right of freedom of religion.

In its Article 10, the EU’s charter of fundamental rights states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion, belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance”.

The signatories also raised the fact that there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support claims that shechita, the kosher method of slaughter, is any more cruel than the majority of slaughter taking place day-in, day out in Europe.

In their letter, the signatories wrote to the Polish government, “By prohibiting an export of products that represents a central tenet of Jewish faith and practice for many, you are sending a strong message that laws that effectively hinder Jewish life in Europe are acceptable.’’

“It is for these reasons – and on behalf of the many thousands of Jews that we as Community Leaders and Parliamentarians represent – that we urge the Polish government, its Parliament and its Senators to stop this aspect of the bill.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association who initiated the letter, said in a statement: “What appears to be a national polish political issue is nothing of the sort. The ramifications of this bill are potentially devastating and profound to Jews everywhere in Europe, and also to the many who value the liberty to practice freedom of religion.’’

“The bill, if passed, will be seen as a declaration that it is open season to anyone who objects to aspects of Jewish law, faith and practice. It must be stopped,’’ he said.

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Animal welfare

Proposed animal welfare bill in Poland is 'of deep concern to European Jewry'

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Rabbi Menachem Margolin: "This draft law puts unproven and unscientific claims about animal welfare above freedom of religion, breaching a central pillar of the EU’s charter of fundamental rights."

A proposed legislation in Poland to ban religious slaughter of animals for export "is of deep concern to European Jewry," said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European  Jewish Association (EJA) on Thursday (1 October), writes

The so-called animal welfare bill, proposed by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), has passed the Chamber of deputies or Sjem and now seeks approval in the Senate.

It could have massive ramifications for European Jewish communities as it would see a central and vital part of a Jewish practice, the shechita,  that has taken place for millennia trampled on and effectively wiped out – the access to and supply of kosher meat.

For European Jews, the legislation also carries with it multiple red and flashing alarms. History has repeatedly shown that the opening salvo in attempts to punish, ostracize, marginalize and ultimately destroy Jewish communities always starts with bans on central tenets of Jewish faith such as kosher laws and circumcision, before moving into much darker territory.

Animal welfare activists oppose the slaughter of animals for kosher meat because it precludes stunning before the animals’ throats are cut. Proponents of the practice reject claims it is cruel and say it induces a quick and humane death for the animal.

“This draft law puts unproven and unscientific claims about animal welfare above freedom of religion, breaching a central pillar  of the EU’s charter of fundamental rights,’’ said Rabbi Margolin in his statement.

In its Article 10, the charter states: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion, belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others, and in public or private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance."

 The bill, noted Margolin "so alarmingly seeks to control and put a headcount on Jewish practice by giving the Minister of Agriculture the power to determine the qualifications of persons performing religious slaughter".

The 'schochet', the person who is tasked with performing the slaughter undertakes years of ongoing training and is committed to, under strict Jewish law, ensuring that the animal undergoes the least suffering and stress as possible leading up to and during the slaughter itself, the rabbi explained.

He continued: "The draft law will also require a determination of the quantity of kosher meat needed by the local Jewish community. How is this to be done? by creating and supervising  a list of Jews in Poland”? This law, if passed, carries with it a dark and sinister undertow for Jews, a harking back to occupation, where practice and belief were initially targeted as first steps on the road to our eventual destruction."

Poland is one of the biggest European exporters of kosher meat.

"European Jewry has enjoyed a fruitful and cooperative relationship with Poland as a principal supplier of kosher meat to our communities. Poland, in fact, is a central supplier to our needs. The question has to be asked, why now? To what end?" asked Rabbi Margolin, who urged  the Polish government, its parliament, its Senators and the Polish President to stop this law.

"Not only to uphold the values enshrined in the European Charter of fundamental rights protecting freedom of religion but to give a clear statement of solidarity that it will stand with and support European Jewry as an intrinsic part of Europe’s social fabric, and not sacrifice us, our beliefs and practice on the altar of politics," Rabbi Margolin concluded.

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