The European Commission held a hybrid stakeholder conference “EU Animal Welfare Today and Tomorrow” on 9 December 2021. About 50 people participated in person, almost 1,000 remotely. In keynote speeches, SANTE and AGRI Commissioners Stella Kyriakides and Janusz Wojciechowski, and Joze Podgorsek, Minister of Agriculture of Slovenia, recalled that ensuring animal welfare is a moral duty; As such, the EU must protect animals, but it must also be prudent to preserve the competitiveness of European producers and food safety.
The UECBV therefore urges the Commission to continue fair discussions among stakeholders to find this balance.
Subsequently, five one-hour panels addressed issues related to animal welfare, in which representatives of the UECBV participated in the panels on transport and slaughter and support for labeling.
Laurens Hoedemaker, president of the Dutch Meat Association – COV – and representative of the European Union of Cattlemen and Butchers – UECBV -, made statements at the panel about slaughter and answered technical questions, especially about stunning:
- In particular, meat producers serve the two social values of good nutrition and animal welfare and strive to treat our animals in a way that avoids any unnecessary suffering.
- The method of stunning cannot be seen apart from the handling of the animals up to the time of stunning. Electrical stunning and CO2 stunning have both advantages and disadvantages. It is important that the operator can choose the best tool for his own operations.
- In the end, the UECBV representative, being a veterinarian, stated about the cooperation that Europe has high legal standards for Animal Welfare, animal health and food safety. However, European meat producers continue to strive to improve forms where possible and invite animal welfare NGOs to help fulfill these ambitions. The revision of the legislation must be based on new scientific data, on innovation and on the opinion of those responsible for the application of animal welfare standards. In the absence of scientific data, we must not rush and we must take time to obtain them.
Heinz Osterloh, President of the German Cattle Traders Association – BVVF – and Vice President of UECBV, made the following clear at the transport panel:
- The constant concentration of slaughterhouses in the EU is due to the highest level required in slaughterhouses in terms of hygiene, animal welfare and environmental requirements. This means that there are fewer but higher-level slaughterhouses.
- It was emphasized that training, education and educational support structures are key elements, as they are crucial for responsible transport in the existing legal framework. In this regard, he appreciated the comments of other panellists who highlighted significant improvements, common policy developments, as well as guidelines and technical achievements.
- Therefore, the representative of UECBV concluded that priority should be given to the application and continued and consistent compliance with the European legal framework that has been in force since 2005, rather than new legislation, where UECBV maintains its availability unchanged for the joint efforts.
In addition, the statement of Tamás Eder is supported on behalf of CLITRAVI, being also a member of the Board of Directors of UECBV, highlighting in the panel the labeling efforts for joint development oriented to the consumer but based on science.
UECBV expresses its will as a responsible and sustainable actor as a signatory to the Code of Conduct. The offer of constructive development for Animal Welfare as a partner for actions in the sense of the Green Deal and Farm-to-Fork strategy is welcome. Due to some notable messages from the Commissioner and the handling of the conference, UECBV urges fair discussions between stakeholders to find balance and exercise caution to preserve a future for European livestock and meat producers.