‘Breaking Free’: EEB publishes position on EU animal welfare

Chicken farm. Egg-laying chicken in battery cages. Commercial hens poultry farming. Layer hens livestock farm. Intensive poultry farming in close systems. Egg production. Chicken feed for laying hens.

Today, the EEB launches its first position paper on animal welfare. The message is clear: the benefits of improving animal welfare across the EU will be transformative for our environment, people’s livelihoods, and society at large. Without action, the picture looks far less rosy…

Failing to improve animal welfare in Europe undermines our health, with the overproduction of animal protein propping up unhealthy diets and leaving us at greater risk of disease outbreak and antimicrobial resistance.

The intensive farms with the worst animal welfare records are also an important source of greenhouse house emissions and water, soil and air pollution.  As such, improving animal welfare is an unavoidable step towards making our agri-food systems truly sustainable.


Nothing new

The connection between factory farming and our climate/environment is nothing new. But for too long, this link has been swept under the rug and forced off political agendas by strategic, targeted and increasingly well-resourced lobbying efforts.

Animal farming is not only subject to inadequate regulation; it also benefits enormously and disproportionately from EU agricultural subsidies. As such, poor animal welfare on Europe’s farms is being artificially propped up – and actively promoted – by politically-motivated financing.


Europe’s strongest consensus

Under the EU Green Deal, this European Commission promised to revise the EU animal welfare legislation, shown by its own Fitness Check to be unscientific and outdated. It pledged to carry out this revision by the end of last year, to bring the Union’s rules on animal welfare in line with not only scientific consensus, but also the demands of the vast majority of Europeans – over 90% of EU citizens consider the welfare of farmed animals to be important.

As part of that revision, this Commission also committed to implementing the ‘End the Cage Age’ European Citizens’ Initiative, which collected 1.4 million signatures in 2020. While a recent Eurobarometer showed that almost 90% of people in all member states are in favour of a ban on cage farming, that commitment remains unfulfilled.


What we want

In this paper, we have addressed all these different aspects, compiling an overview of the multiple reasons why the next European Commission must urgently address the EU’s animal welfare crisis.

Creating socially and environmentally sustainable food systems across the EU is essential to overcome the current climate, biodiversity and pollution crises, and addressing poor animal welfare. The overproduction and overconsumption of animal proteins is an inescapable part of the process.

What the EEB is calling for (in brief):

  1. Reduce stocking densities on farms
  2. Phase out individual cages 
  3. Introduce species-specific standards for all farmed animals
  4. Ban routine mutilations
  5. Ban force-feeding


‘Food for Profit’ screening

This evening, we gather at Cinéma Galeries in the centre of Brussels for a screening of ‘Food for Profit’, a new documentary film exploring the vast business of factory farming in Europe, the widespread suffering inflicted on animals behind barn doors, and the creeping influence of Big Meat lobbies in the heart of Europe’s political institutions. With screenings scheduled at the Cannes Film Festival this week, the film is already a major hit.


Notes to editors: 

‘Breaking Free’: EEB publishes position on EU animal welfare
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