Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ninth Report


171. Another 'public good' which might be purchased from farmers by public expenditure is improved animal welfare standards. The outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 has prompted a number of questions about the way in which livestock are farmed in the United Kingdom.[314] The RSPCA told us that it felt that the outbreak had provided "a welcome opportunity to reassess the future direction of British agriculture". To that end, it drew up a Ten Point Plan for sustainable welfare-friendly agriculture.[315] Compassion in World Farming argued that "in the wake of the foot and mouth disease crisis, substantial reforms are needed to help prevent the crises which beset United Kingdom farming with some regularity".[316]

172. Both organisations called for animal welfare issues to be fully addressed in the forthcoming Mid-Term Review of the CAP Agenda 2000 agreement. The RSPCA pointed out that although the European Union is calling for green box payments to reward animal welfare in the World Trade Organisation, it has not proposed any CAP mechanisms to do so.[317] Compassion in World Farming argued that Pillar II measures could be used to encourage high animal welfare and it advocated:

    -  an animal welfare impact assessment - to prevent the implementation of CAP policies or subsidies that would have a detrimental impact on animal welfare (the RSPCA called for this too[318]);

    -  a farm animal welfare scheme - offering help with capital costs and possibly transitional aid for farmers changing from "factory farming to extensive husbandry systems";

    -  land management contracts which include animal welfare requirements;

    -  discouraging long-distance transporting of farm animals.[319]

Explaining how the green box could be used to encourage high animal welfare may help to demonstrate to our negotiating partners that the policy is addressing a particular demand from society and is not a means of agricultural protection. However, concern about whether or not meat and animal products produced to lower animal welfare standards would be able to be sold in the European market is not being addressed through such an approach.

173. It has been argued that, given that the European Union internal market is still protected against foreign competition by considerable tariff barriers, particularly for livestock and livestock products, and that market prices are above those prevailing outside the European Union, there is already a justification (and implicitly compensation to farmers) for delivering higher animal welfare standards across the European Union. If such an approach is followed now, there must be discussion about how those higher standards can be maintained as European Union tariff barriers are reduced.

174. Compassion in World Farming argued that society must "let go of the cheap food policy, which is what has fuelled factory farming".[320] To a large extent, as we were told in the context of environmental degradation, the cause of poor animal welfare standards has been the direction in which agricultural price support policy has led farmers. This is particularly apparent in the reflection of Erhard Schwinne of the German Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture: "another aspect is animal welfare. In Germany, if you go to the countryside, you rarely see animals. I grew up in the mountains, and I remember when the weather permitted following the winter there were always animals in the meadows and the fields. Nowadays they are kept in barns and they rarely see the light. When the door is opened they may see the light".[321]

175. In New Zealand we were told that high farm animal welfare was increasingly demanded by customers and therefore it was being addressed through the marketplace. In the United Kingdom we frequently hear the comment that consumers call for high animal welfare in surveys outside shops but then buy on price inside them. Professor Hughes told us that "we have to be careful to make sure that what we perceive to be market signals, like more animal welfare ... are actual market signals and not signals from very well organised and very powerful lobby groups, who if we do not watch it, can get ahead of the market".[322] Animal welfare concerns can rightly be addressed through policy mechanisms; but, if society is really concerned about the issues there will also be responses in the marketplace. These are best facilitated through obligations to provide better consumer information in­store and on labels.

176. The document tabled by Commissioner Fischler in July 2002 to instigate the Mid-Term Review process seeks to "integrate ... animal welfare fully into the CAP".[323] It proposes that farm income payments be made conditional on meeting set standards, including animal welfare standards. It also puts forward plans to permit agri-environmental rural development payments (under Pillar II) in order for farmers to improve levels of animal welfare. We comment briefly on these matters in Chapter 6, and will examine these proposals in detail when we report on the Mid-Term Review later in the year.

314   See for example the following press articles: Rethink on cheap food policies, The Guardian, 2 March 2001, p. 9; The real sickness in our countryside, Independent on Sunday, 18 March 2001, p. 23; Farming must cull its bad practices, Evening Standard, 20 March 2001, p. 13; and We must review the future of agriculture, our last great nationalised industry, The Independent, 5 April 2001, p. 3. Back

315   Memorandum submitted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Ev 357, para 1. Back

316   Memorandum submitted by Compassion in World Farming, Ev 336. Back

317   Memorandum submitted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Ev 360, para 16. Back

318   Memorandum submitted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Ev 360, para 17. Back

319   Memorandum submitted by Compassion in World Farming, Ev 339-Ev 340. Back

320   Memorandum submitted by Compassion in World Farming, Ev 336. Back

321   Evidence taken on 17 April 2002, Ev 226, Q.818. Back

322   Evidence taken on 6 February 2002, Ev 43, Q.191. Back

323   See|0|RAPID&lg=EN&display=. Back

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