Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-02-13-Speech-1-085"

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". Madam President, I hope that this week will see this House taking an important step towards sustainable European agriculture. The European Union needs to respect, and lay down in law, the five freedoms of the animal, namely freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to express normal behaviour and freedom from fear and distress. This directive accommodates these freedoms, and that is not a moment too soon. Europe needs concrete proof in order to get its citizens to regain trust in the EU. Sustainable development is one of the areas where the EU can score points. Animal welfare is part of this and that is why this directive should be put into practice soon. It is first and foremost the European consumers and citizens who demand respect for animals and who – in an increasing number of countries – are prepared to pay a reasonable price for it. It is good that the Commission, three weeks ago, launched the action plan for animal welfare. Agreements and rules of this kind should be European; if not, Member States will start competing against each other at the expense of animal welfare. The European consumer’s main concern about animal welfare at the moment is the welfare of broiler chickens. This was fuelled by reports of overcrowding in chicken houses and of breeding methods that were aimed at achieving ever faster growth, rather than strong bone structure and stronger heart and lungs. Too many animals sustain injuries on legs and chest due to poor litter. With my report and related amendments, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development has sent a clear message to the Commission and the Council in support of animal welfare and of quality requirements, but also in favour of some flexibility in respect of the poultry farmer. I have also, in my report, attempted to lay down two principles that were not yet included in the directive. First of all, genetic selection, the breeding of animals to obtain certain features, should never result in a decrease in, or threat of, the potential level of animal welfare of an animal species. This principle must be a cornerstone in any animal welfare directive. Secondly, animal welfare should not be treated as secondary to socio-economic considerations. With this principle in mind, it makes sense to subject the quality of the chicken houses to certain criteria. These are criteria that good poultry farmers have met for a long time, since they reduce mortality rates and thus increase the yield. As Commissioner Kyprianou has already pointed out, animal welfare is in poultry farmers’ economic interests. The directive also provides for professional and daily health and welfare checks, which, particularly in this day and age, are an important preventive measure against animal diseases. Even so, poultry need more room than they are often given. The amendment that Mrs Jeggle and I have tabled specifies that maximum quantity of poultry per square metre in the few days immediately preceding their being transported to the slaughter house must come down to 38 kg per square metre and to 34 kg by 2013. Many EU Member States are already under or around this limit. I do not support amendments that favour even lower densities. Even though experts believe that animal welfare is at greater risk above a density of 30 kg per square metre, that is definitely not an absolute limit above which disaster is sure to strike. Above 30 kg per square metre, everything depends on good management, and that is precisely what this House can rely on. That is why the rules should be flexible in their application to farmers. Quality requirements and sanctions go hand in hand, but these should be proportionate and encourage better management. It makes no sense whatsoever to increase the severity of penalties or increase their duration for longer than is strictly necessary. Those who are opposed to this directive claim that global competition makes animal welfare standards of this kind impossible, and allege that Europe is subjected to stricter requirements than countries outside. As a matter of fact, that is not the case. Brazil, which is our biggest competitor in the poultry industry, already does all that this directive requires. Even if Europe were to stop bad animal welfare at its borders, Brazilian meat would still come in effortlessly. Consequently, the European sector will need to look at reducing costs and thus increasing the scale, or else at producing fresh, high-quality meat near the European consumer. What this directive encourages is already, we can see, becoming a trend, but that does not mean that the Commission should not place animal welfare on the agenda within the World Trade Organisation, and do so more firmly than it is doing now. I have questioned the Commission about this. What scope does the GATT Agreement offer for animal welfare? In Article 20 of this Agreement, import restrictions to protect human, animal or plant life or health are said to be justified on moral grounds. We need to press on down this road."@en1

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