The Farm to Fork Strategy adopted by the Commission on 20 May 2020 announced that the Commission will revise the animal welfare legislation to align it with the latest scientific evidence. In addition, the revision will broaden its scope, make its enforcement easier and ultimately ensure a higher level of animal welfare.
The Commission's preparatory work aims to revise the following pieces of legislation: the Directive on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, four Directives laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens, broilers, pigs and calves; and the Regulations on the protection of animals during transport and at the time of killing. In addition, the Commission's preparatory work aims to prepare a proposal of new legislation on animal welfare labelling.
In view of this revision, the Commission is working on an Impact Assessment, whose objective was to assess the economic, social and environmental impact of the envisaged changes to the EU animal welfare legislation.
Since it was the most advanced, on 7 December 2023, the Commission adopted the proposal of revision of the Regulation on the protection of animals during transport. In addition, it adopted a proposal for a new Regulation on the welfare of dogs and cats and their traceability.
The proposed measures on transport will improve the wellbeing of the 1.6 billion animals transported across borders in the EU and from the EU each year. The new rules on the welfare of dogs and cats and their traceability will establish, for the first time ever, uniform EU standards for the breeding, housing, handling, and reproduction of dogs and cats in breeding establishments, pet shops and shelters transport. It will also reinforce existing provisions on the traceability of dogs and cats supplied in the EU rules to combat illegal trafficking. The two legislative proposals will now be submitted to the European Parliament and the Council for agreement.
Concerning the other planned legislative proposals (to revise current EU rules on the welfare of animals at farm level, and the protection of animals at the time of killing and establish new EU rules on animal welfare labelling), the work is still ongoing.
As regards the Commission's reply to the European Citizens' Initiative "End the Cage Age", the Commission is now carefully assessing important aspects to ensure that the transition to cage-free farming is sustainable for the agricultural sector and for our food systems, including food security. The preliminary results of the ongoing impact assessment show that the transition to cage-free systems demands the adaptation of several farming parameters, such as enriching the environment of the animals, and providing them with more space, to secure improved welfare conditions for the animals. Further consultations are needed such as concerning the costs, the appropriate length of the transitional period and the relevant measures at import. To ensure a proper balance between animal welfare and socio-economic impacts, the phasing out of cages has to come with support other animal welfare measures and support to farmers. Preparatory work will therefore continue, including in the context of the strategic dialogue on the future of agriculture in the EU.
As a first step, and based on the preliminary findings of the evaluation of the current legislation ("Fitness check"), the Commission published on 6 July 2021 an Inception Impact Assessment Roadmap presenting the policy options envisaged to be examined in the Impact Assessment. The roadmap was open for public feedback until 24 August 2021. It covered four areas of animal welfare: at farm level, during transport, at slaughter, and animal welfare labelling.
Then, a public consultation was held from 15th October 2021 to 21st January 2022 to gather views and experience of citizens and stakeholders on the fitness of the current rules and on how they could be improved. See the factual summary report of the 59281 contributions received.
In September 2022, the Fitness Check was concluded. Its results, presented in a Commission Staff Working Document, confirms the need to revise and modernise the EU animal welfare legislation, and provides a good basis for this revision.
In addition, the Commission sent a roadmap to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) summarising the animal welfare mandates to be delivered between 2022 and 2028 to cover all animal species included in the revision.
EFSA has already published Scientific Opinions on the welfare of broilers; of calves; of pigs; of laying hens; of dairy cows; of ducks, geese and quails (when it comes to their housing conditions); as well as the welfare during transport of pigs, bovines, equids, small ruminants and animals transported in containers. In addition, it adopted a scientific Report on the welfare of cats and dogs in commercial breeding establishments. EFSA is now working on European Commission mandates concerning the welfare of beef cattle, of turkeys, and of fur animals.
In the meantime, the European Commission asked two of the voluntary initiatives of the EU Platform on Animal Welfare to provide them support on possible elements to improve the welfare of equids and pets in the updated EU animal welfare legislation. The produced recommendations are available here.