How EU pays “full regard to the welfare requirements of animals”
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1998:
LONDON, BRUSSELS––A year after the 15
European Union member nations on June 18, 1997 signed a
binding protocol requiring them to recognize animals as “sentient
beings,” and to “pay full regard to the welfare requirements
of animals,” the practical value of it remains unclear.
No aspect of the protocol has been backed, as yet,
by tough new international animal care and handling standards.
But neither has the protocol been shoved into a file
drawer and forgotten. Diplomats are dickering daily over a proposed
phase-out of battery caging for laying hens. Negotiations
also continue over livestock transportation requirements.
The outcome on each topic may be much less than
animal advocates seek, and perhaps even expect.
On the other hand, explained Compassion In World
Farming political and legal director Peter Stevenson explained
when the protocol was first adopted, “This acknowledges that
animals are not goods or agricultural products, but living creatures
capable of feeling paid and suffering. This new legal status
could lead to an end throughout Europe of cruel farming
systems such as battery cages and sow stalls,” Stevenson
hoped, “as it will force the EU Council of Agriculture
Ministers to take animal welfare seriously. The protocol could
also help bring live exports to an end,” he further predicted.
“Because they are classified as goods,” Stevenson
continued, “animals are [now] subject to the Treaty of Rome
free trade rules. The new legal recognition of animals as sentient
beings may force the EU to accept that the ‘goods’ in
which there should be free trade is meat, not live animals.”
The EU regulatory topic certain to affect the most
animals, for better or worse, is the treatment of approximately
270 million laying hens––a flock of about the same size as the
U.S. layer flock. It is not a new topic: the EU has already regulated
the cage space of laying hens since 1986.
Then, the EU Council of Ministers tried to head off a
joint declaration by Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and
Denmark that the space per bird be no less than 600 square centimeters.
The EU directed that the space per bird should be no
less than 450 square centimeters, but agreed to let nations
enforce stricter standards within their own borders via tariffs.
However, the tariff system––never put into
effect––was invalidated by 1993 amendments to the General
Agreement on Trade and Tariffs.
Switzerland, not an EU member, did abolish battery
caging, but Swiss egg producers almost immediately lost market
share to Italy and France.
Other non-EU nations with laws governing caging,
notably Australia and New Zealand, have merely ratified the
EU standard, arguing that GATT allows them to do no more.
The Swiss example discouraged further EU movement
until January 1998, when British junior agriculture minister
Elliot Morley, unable to fulfill an election promise to abolish
battery caging in Britain because the EU allows it, proposed
that battery caging should be abolished worldwide.
“It is a glaring omission,” Morley said, “that animal
welfare does not get a mention” in ongoing World Trade
Organization talks about lifting barriers to global trade in food.
With Britain temporarily holding the rotating EU
presidency, EU agriculture minister Franz Fischler on March
11 introduced a proposal to increase the space per caged chicken
to 850 square centimeters, with more head room and a
raised perch apiece. Following the recommendations of the EU
Scientific Veterinary Committee, the proposal is to go before
the EU Council of Ministers for a vote in January 1999.
Influential public defenders of battery caging include
the Farm Animal Welfare Council, of Britain, and CNEVA,
the French national veterinary research center. Both have
recently published studies maintaining that hens are healthier in
battery caging, and fight less.
According to CNEVA, one recent test showed that
changing cage sizes increased deaths due to cannibalism from
30% under the status quo to 83% with the proposed new size.
The Roslin Institute, of Scotland, best known for
cloning Dolly the sheep, on April 2 released a study by behaviorists
Bryan Jones and Colette Clark which purported that
allowing poultry to watch computer screen-savers for 30 minutes
a day both lowered stress and increased growth and egg
production relative to food consumption.
Instead of giving hens space, in short, give them TV.
The U.S. layer industry is closely watching developments,
expecting that any move in Europe could incite activist
opposition to the ubiquitous use of battery caging here.
Veal on wheels
The EU agriculture ministers agreed to an eight-year
phase-out of veal crating in December 1996, six months before
signing the farm animal welfare protocol. This would bring the
EU into line with British law in effect since January 1990.
But if anyone hoped Britain could enforce a ban on
the export of calves to be crated, that hope was dashed on
March 29, 1998, when the European Court of Justice ruled
against the claim of Compassion In World Farming and the
International Fund for Animal Welfare that such a ban should
take effect as soon as the EU lifts a 1996 ban on imports of any
British cattle, meant to keep bovine spongiform encephalopathy
[mad cow disease] out of Europe.
The European Court of Justice on May 5 rejected a
British claim that the 1996 ban was imposed unfairly.
But the ban will be lifted sooner or later. When it is,
the first British cattle to be allowed into the rest of Europe are
likely to be newborn calves, who presumably would have no
exposure to BSE, since all infected cattle are supposed to have
been slaughtered, and the newborns would have the least risk
of infection from any other source.
This would reopen the circumvention of the British
veal crating ban that went on from 1990 until the BSE scare
erupted in March 1996. Then, not allowed to crate veal calves
themselves, British dairy farmers often exported surplus calves
to be crated in the Netherlands and Belgium. The calf exports
became the most controversial part of the British live animal
export traffic, also involving grown cattle and sheep going to
Months of protest during 1994-1995 climaxed on
February 1, 1995, when activist Jill Phipps, 31, a mother of
two, was killed while allegedly trying to block a truck that was
taking calves to be flown to Amsterdam.
Responding to the British protests, the EU eventually
adopted standards limiting the time that animals may be continuously
Meanwhile, in March 1997, the Austrian High Court
overturned a potentially precedent-setting attempt to enforce an
Austrian transport standard more stringent than that of the EU.
The EU allows cattle to be continuously aboard vehicles for 14
hours; the Austrian standard is six hours. In effect, the verdict
holds that even if cattle have already been trucked for eight
hours, the clock for the Austrian standard starts only when they
cross the border.
Even the EU standard is strict relative to North
America. Livestock may be trucked for up to 36 consecutive
hours in Canada. The U.S. has no national standard. The only
state standards are apparently those of California and Vermont.
California limits trucking time to 24 hours, extendable to 36
hours under special circumstance. Vermont––a state which at
normal speeds can be traversed lengthwise in about three hours,
and diagonally in four hours––sets an 18-hour limit.
The longest routine livestock hauls involve sea-going
shipments from Australia and New Zealand, under activist
scrutiny for more than 20 years. Despite several waves of
promised reforms, they continue to produce horror stories.
In February 1998, for instance, 285 goats and 113
cattle died from exhaustion, stress, and pnumonia during a 25-
day journey aboard the MV Anomis from Geraldton, Australia,
to Port Klang, Malaysia. Many deaths occurred because the
MV Anomis reached Malaysia two days late for the Chinese
New Year celebration. The animals remained aboard the ship
when the original importer refused to take delivery.
A week later, in two incidents, 254 sheep died of
heatstroke aboard trucks as they were ferried to slaughter across
Cook Strait, dividing the major islands of New Zealand.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority escalated
inspections of animal transport vessels, after the Panamanianregistered
U n i c e b took 68,455 Australian sheep to the bottom
of the Indian Ocean in September 1996, and the Philippine-registered
MV Guernsey Express went down off Guam with 1,592
Australian cattle two months later.
But sheep and cattle lost in shipwrecks are not included
in the annual shipboard mortality data. Those records,
1986-1996, show sheep losses in transit always between 2% to
3%, with numbers of deaths ranging from 80,000 to 156,000.
About as many more sheep die each year after landing
at their destinations, often as an after effect of shipping
stress or of diseases caught on shipboard.
The sea-going traffic from Australia and New
Zealand may not be the hardest on animals. Conditions associated
with livestock shipments out of Latin America remain
almost wholly undocumented, though the volume of live animals
involved is believed to be much less. India has exported
increasing numbers of cattle, sheep, and goats for slaughter in
the Middle East during the past decade. How those animals
fare in transit is also poorly documented––in part because many
of them reportedly cross the border into Bangladesh on their
own four feet, before boarding trucks, trains, or ships.
Conditions involving Irish exports, long debated,
have drawn more attention since Compassion In World
Farming in April 1998 distributed video of Irish bulls going to
slaughter under severely inhumane circumstances in Beirut,
Lebanon––although in each case the abuse may have begun
only after the bulls reached Lebanon.
But appalling as is the suffering involved in international
livestock export, the number of known animal death and
injuries associated with it is still much smaller than the toll of
animals killed or seriously injured en route to slaughter in the
U.S. each year: about 360,000 cattle, 450,000 pigs, and 117
million chickens, according to industry estimates.