Minister Jože Podgoršek in his capacity as Chair of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council took part in a high level stakeholder conference entitled “EU animal welfare today and tomorrow”. The conference organised by the European Commission presented an opportunity for stakeholders to express their views on the Commission’s main ideas regarding the revision of the EU’s animal welfare legislation in the context of the public consultation launched by the Commission in October.
The conference attended by all the main players in the field of animal welfare in the EU and beyond, was opened by the European Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, followed by an opening address by Minister Podgoršek. In his address, Minister Podgoršek highlighted that animal welfare is one of the most important topics discussed in the Council of the European Union and one that took centre stage during the Slovenian Presidency. Animal welfare is also an important part of the Farm to Fork Strategy and a key element of the transition to more sustainable food systems. Minister Podgoršek said: “On the road to more sustainable food systems, we have to take into account that while animal welfare needs to be respected, the economic viability and competitiveness of European producers need to be maintained.”
The minister also spoke about the Council’s invitation to the Commission to introduce animal welfare labelling, adding that such labelling system helps to further improve animal welfare and brings better compensation to producers who strive for higher animal welfare as the one set out in EU legislation. “This system of labelling addresses the increased demand for products produced under higher animal welfare standards,” said Minister Podgoršek.
The interactive panels discussed the main animal welfare issues that are to be addressed by the future European legislation: ending the cage age, animal welfare labelling of foodstuffs of animal origin and animal welfare during transport and slaughter. The following part of the minister’s address sums up the debate nicely: “Animal welfare is not only an integral part of sustainable food systems, but also a moral obligation, as the prevailing public opinion in the EU suggests. EU member states agree that Europe must continue to actively protect animals, also by empowering consumers to support higher welfare standards for farm animals. Nevertheless, future steps should be prudent in order to maintain the competitiveness of European breeders and producers.”
Late in the afternoon the Commission closed the conference with a call for cooperation and inclusive dialogue of all stakeholders and recalled the message of an important conference participant, the world‑renowned ethologist and conservationist Dr Jane Goodall. “Each one of us matters and has a role to play. The European Union could take the lead in creating positive change for the benefit of animals.”