PROTECTION OF CHICKENS KEPT FOR MEAT PRODUCTION
Letter from the Chairman to Ben Bradshaw
MP, Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare,
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Thank you for your Supplementary Explanatory
Memorandum of 2 February 2006 which Sub-Committee D (Environment
and Agriculture) considered at its meeting on 8 March 2006.
We are concerned that the Commission's agenda
to improve welfare standards in the agricultural industry does
not take full account of standards in the international export
market. The objective of improving welfare standards within the
EU could be undermined by the continued import of chickens produced
more cheaply in third countries due to less stringent welfare
conditions being imposed. The Committee recognises the potential
welfare benefit that could be achieved from adoption of the proposal,
but wishes to ensure that third countries which supply chickens
to the EU are required to meet similar production standards.
What assurance can be provided to EU consumers
that chickens imported from third countries have been reared under
welfare standard conditions equal to those proposed by the Commission?
What monitoring takes place of conditions in third countries and
what sanctions are imposed if standards are found to be failing?
We note that this proposal is due to be considered
at Council in May, but given these concerns the Committee decided
to retain the proposal under scrutiny at this stage.
16 March 2006
Letter from Ben Bradshaw MP to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 16 March in which
you highlight the concerns of the Sub Committee D (following consideration
of Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum 9606/05 of 2 February),
that any improvements in EU animal welfare standards could be
undermined by imports produced more cheaply from third countries
due to less stringent welfare conditions.
You ask in particular whether EU consumers can
be provided with assurances that chicken imported from third countries
has been reared under welfare conditions equal to those proposed
by the Commission; details of monitoring of welfare standards
in third countries; and sanctions imposed if standards are found
to be failing.
There can be no absolute assurances given to
consumers. Rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) do not
allow member countries to ban imports of products which are essentially
the same as domestic products apart from in the method by which
they have been producedthese are known as "like products"
in WTO terms. Discrimination against these products would be a
restriction on trade, not allowed under the agreed exceptions
to WTO rules, unless the lower welfare standards practised in
the exporting country gave rise to safety concerns under Sanitary
and Phytosanitary Agreement. However, the EU will continue to
press for the acceptance at WTO level of animal welfare as a non-trade
concern in agricultural trade.
However Member States and the Commission recognise
that increasing the welfare standards in the EU in a manner that
merely exports the welfare problem to other centres of production
is not consistent with either a sustainable European farming industry
or the need for consumers to be appropriately informed on the
food they eat.
The Commission's recently published Community
Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-10 notes
that there is a risk that demanding animal welfare standards in
some countries may lead to activities being re-located to countries
applying lower standards, or that such countries could be at an
unfair competitive advantage. There is limited international consensus
on the relative importance accorded to animal welfare and the
measures in place in the EU cannot be readily compared with the
standards in Third Countries. The Plan ackowledges that a monitoring
instrument is required to compare compulsory animal welfare standards
applied in the EU with those applied in third countries in order
to analyse any possible market effects.
One of the five areas of action identified in
the plan is "to continue and initiate further international
initiatives to raise awareness and create a greater consensus
on animal welfare, including engaging with developing countries
to explore trade opportunities based on welfare friendly production
The EU continues to actively participate in
various international fora as a means of increasing awareness
and building consensus in the importance of animal welfare. The
EU is party or observer to several of the Council of Europe Conventions
aimed at improving the welfare of animals. The EU also supports
the work of the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health). It
is well placed to build international consensus on the issues
of animal welfare and has developed a detailed animal welfare
vision and strategy. In May 2002 a specific resolution was adopted
which mandates the OIE to elaborate science-based recommendations
and standards on animal welfare. Recent achievements include the
organisation of the first OIE Global Conference on Animal Welfare
and adoption of principles and guidelines on animal welfare.
A key issue for a Commission Communication of
2002 on animal welfare legislation in third countries and the
implications for the EU (COM (2002) 626 final), was whether competitive
disadvantages arose from disparities in animal welfare measures.
The report investigated a number of channels to prevent such a
development including, market mechanisms, dialogue at international
level, promotion of animal welfare standards in trade arrangements
and improvement of labelling regimes.
In respect of the meat chicken proposal, the
Commission suggests that further clarification and investigations
are needed on the possible socio/economic and trade/legal implications
of a mandatory labelling scheme, notably with regard to compatibility
with WTO rules, Technical Barriers to Trade etc. The Commission
will submit a detailed report to the Council on this issue having
undertaken a comprehensive analysis of the considerations in question.
This is re-inforced through the Commission's Action Plan which
states that options for EU labelling will be explored in a systematic
manner. In addition, the Plan acknowledges that improved marketing,
labelling and communication strategies will need to be developed
and analysed to ensure that consumers are able to make more informed
I hope this re-assures your members that the
EU is committed to enabling consumers to make well informed purchasing
decisions in respect of animal welfare and that it is pro-active
in raising awareness of animal welfare standards on the international
23 May 2006