Gebäude 21, 1. OG
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There is a growing trend towards improved welfare standards in Europe, led by consumer demands in this direction. Nowadays food quality is not only determined by the overall nature and safety of the end product but also by the perceived welfare status of the animals from which the food is produced. In response, the body of EU legislation on animal welfare has increased steadily in recent years. This trend is likely to accelerate, especially in the light of the Protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam which raised the ambitions of all EU institutions to do more to raise welfare standards. Today in the area of animal welfare the general aim of the European Commission"s activities is to ensure that animals do not need to endure avoidable pain or suffering and to oblige the owner/keeper of animals to respect minimum welfare requirements. As there are diverging views on the extent to which animal welfare constitutes a legitimate policy objective, unilateral application by the EU of its animal welfare standards as condition for the importation of products from third countries could risk being challenged by the EU’s trading partners. The evidence that is available suggests that competitive distortions are most likely to arise in the more intensive forms of agricultural production, notably the pig and poultry sectors. The agreements of the World Trade Organisation make it illegal to resort to measures that unnecessarily restrict trade or discriminate among members or between imported and domestic products. The EU has been the most supportive of including animal welfare in the agenda of the World Trade Organisation where it is not currently recognised as a legitimate concern. A global debate on animal ethics (and some other values) and its influence on international trade may be expected. The EU needs to continue its bilateral efforts with individual trading partners to promote animal welfare standards. Labelling regimes, whether voluntary or mandatory, also have an important role to play. Labelling is probably the least trade-distorting means of meeting the specific demand for products produced in accordance with acceptable animal welfare standards. Labelling is becoming increasingly important as more and more consumers want to know about the foodstuffs they are buying. Consumer pressure is strongest in the pig and poultry production. There are mainly two advantages connected with labelling. Consumers get a chance to make a choice according to their ethical principles. And for producers it makes economical sense to invest in an ethically certified production when there is a possibility to reach specific consumer groups this way. Because of proper animal welfare labelling the question of scientific means for on-farm welfare assessment must be addressed. For using the new chance to declare not only minimum but also higher welfare requirements it is useful to add animal-based measures (e.g. presence of injuries, bodily condition, mortality rate, meat quality etc.) to the traditional resource-based measures (e.g. space allocation, group size, temperature, ammonia level etc.). Future standards for on-farm welfare assessment and information systems will be based upon consumer demands, the marketing requirements of retailers and stringent scientific validation.