Animal welfare is an important concern to the European Food Safety Authority. This is so because the safety of the food chain indirectly affects the welfare of the animals that are reared for food production. Notably, there is a close link between animal health, animal welfare, and food-borne diseases. Poor welfare and stress factors can predispose animals to contract diseases. Therefore, high standards of animal welfare are required to ensure protection form any diseases. The EU is ranked amongst the highest for having the best standards of animal welfare. The legislative framework for the EU with regards to animal welfare is available in the EU Animal Welfare 2012-2015 Strategy (Browman et al., 2018). This document covers the harmonized EU rules that cover a vast range of animal species and the issues that affect welfare. Subsequently, it outlines the Council’s laid out minimum standards required for the protection of farmed animals. In addition, it looks at the EU proposal to the WTO to improve the standards on animal rearing and welfare. Furthermore, it looks at the EU legislation rules that also provides the required standards for transportation, stunning and slaughter. There are specific directives that cover animals such as laying chickens and pig rearing.
Consequently, a key priority of the European Union is to promote for an all-inclusive dialogue that discusses animal welfare issues that seem to be relevant at EU status among competent business and government authorities (Favre, 2016). To achieve this, the EU proposes that the WTO will assist in the development and exchange of actions related to animal welfare by having a focus on the implementation of animal welfare laws. The EU has to ensure better implementation of EU laws on animal welfare and the direct involvement of stakeholders. Indeed, the use of voluntary seminars by businesses to improve the animal welfare and the promotion of the EU animal welfare standards by valorizing the market value of the Commission’s product at an international level should be encouraged (Buller et al., 2018).
The legislative aspects of animal welfare start that all citizens must ensure the implement all the rules regard the protection of farm animals. The enforcement of animal legislation is regarded as a principle of subsidiarity. This means that the EU is responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the rules as stated by its national legislation. The national level commission will provide appropriate information and necessary training of the EU legislative requirements. It will ensure that the EU legislation on animal welfare is enforced properly. The legal requirement for the national commission will include the inspection and control through the Food and Veterinary Department that ensures there are competent officers in the EU that apply the EU laws on animal welfare in an effective and uniform way. The Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health provides a platform for a representative that discuss matters affecting the implementation of law related to animal welfare and the necessary urgent measures. Overall, the legislative mandate of the European Food Safety Authority is to ensure that all the farmers follow the rules stipulated by the animal welfare that cover how farm animals are reared, transported and slaughtered.
The European Union Proposal to WTO on Animal Welfare Standards
The issue of animal welfare is quite complex as it is at the crossroad of ethical, economical, animal health, food production, legal issues, and public health. Accordingly, there is a lot of significance and importance attached to the issues of animal welfare amongst the various member of WTO (Guillén et al., 2018). Recent studies have shown that animal welfare is a major trade issue that has been acknowledged by OECD. Other commissions and international bodies are also rooting for conventions to take place so that most countries can confirm this issue. The EU proposes that the WTO should implement high animal welfare standards to enable it to realize its long term goal of trade liberalization. Furthermore, the EU believes that higher animal welfare and handling will result in more sustainable agricultural structures through effective trade policies.
Thus, the European Union fully recognizes the complexity of the issue in addition to the fact that each of the WTO members has the right to choose their own animal welfare standards. However, the effect of trade liberalization with regards to animal welfare and more so farm animals and their transportation cannot be denied. Indeed, the WTO should not interfere with the normal trade of food and agricultural products because of their own animal welfare standards. Equally, there are those WTO members that have high standards of animal welfare regulations. Such practices must be encouraged as the EU can secure the rights of those who apply and maintain high standards of animal welfare (Fuseini et al., 2017).
There are three existing WTO Agreements namely the application of Sanitary measures, Agreement of Barriers to Trade, Agreement to Agriculture, already provide a clear basis for some of the issues that relate to animal welfare (Iatridou et al., 2018). The EU proposes that their view of animal welfare should be consistent with that of the WTO. EU plans to raise the issue of animal welfare as a non-trade concern so that it can obtain a lot of backing for its implementation. The current debate between the two bodies has shown progress towards reaching common ground on the issue of animal welfare standards.
The following are a number of proposals suggested by the EU to the WTO in which the issues of animal welfare could be addressed. These proposals are presented based on feasibility analysis so that to create an effective social, economic and environmental impact. These suggestions are not mutually exclusive as any outcome could be envisaged. These include The development of a multilateral agreement with regards to the protection of animal welfare among the WTO members (Velarde et al., 2015). This will help enhance a great legal reproach towards the WTO rules and trade measure regarding animal welfare agreements. The EU proposes if WTO members would agree on specific farm produce to be labelled by agreeing on compulsory or voluntary labelling.
Conspicuously, the TBT agreement proposal for compulsory labelling so the consumer can make an informed choice. Additionally, the EU proposes that the label should indicate whether the animal was reared domestically or imported and to show if it complied with the requirement of animal welfare standards (Von Keyserlingk & Hötzel, 2015). The proposal challenges the WTO to address animal welfare, because of rising issues such as climate change and animal anti-microbial resistance. Essentially, this proposal takes a rather unconventional approach because it advocates for the formulation of trade policy to control factory farming. It addresses concerns like cruelty concerns by appealing to morality. Progressively, it quotes its own approach through effective labeling systems based on already laid out welfare criteria. The importance of these labeling criteria is that it will work in the long term since they are qualitative measures.
The labelling system of the European Union
In essence, the labelling on consumer goods outlines the welfare situation of animals. For this reason, the EU has a series of options when it comes to animal welfare labelling. The overall objective of this strategy is to create a policy that will make it easy for consumers to identify and choose welfare-friendly products. This will, in turn, help the WTO members by giving an economic incentive to the producers to improve their animal welfare standards. Notably, the EU proposes that labelling according to the country of origin for both processed and fresh meat will help in establishing a food supply chain that is trustworthy because it is traceable. Furthermore, the EU proposes that in order for the WTO to help the customers to make informed choices, the labelling process should include the location of the birth of the animals, housing style, the rearing process and slaughter information (Shaffer & Pabian, 2015). In this regard, the EU encourages the WTO to take actions on this subject so that they can improve on animal welfare standards. This will ensure transparency.
Remarkably, the EU commission has implemented various strategies to ensure the labelling of animal products by proving any information relating to the required standard of animal welfare (Valentin et al., 2016). There is only one EU wide system that ensures compulsory labeling for eggs. This system is based on the legislation of egg laying that shows information such as cage, free range, egg type. However, this is not available for animal products. The EU proposes that the labelling of the animal product will help in increasing the standards of animal welfare. Notably, consumers are now interested in how the animals they are eating were treated on the farms. Currently, the EU allows for voluntary labelling. The labelling process is strategy oriented towards consumer satisfaction by providing them with animal welfare friendly products (Lindsjö et al., 2016). Since there is no harmonized rule for meat products, the market and sale of animal products have drastically dropped. If there is a harmonized system of labelling, the farm product will sell amongst the WTO countries. Objectively, it examines new labelling schemes that appeal on a business to business level. The labelling act as a measuring tool for quality management and safety.
Conclusively, the EU animal welfare legislation is set to improve and increase the quality of animals’ lives by ensuring the citizens’ expectations and market demands are met by ensuring the implementation of high standards. The EU is known to have one of the highest animal welfare standards in the world. Most of these standards deal with the care of farm animals (rearing them on the farm, during transport, and during slaughter). Whereas, the legislation also covers the experiments, lab pets, and wildlife. If the WTO adopt these suggestions, it would adequately address the issue of animal welfare without conflicting with is long term goal of trade liberalization.
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