Commission concludes Fitness Check current Animal Welfare legislation

  • Subject
    Revision EU legislation animal welfare
  • Target audience
    Welfare inspectors, farmers, pig industry, NGO's, public
More info and sources
The European Commission published an overview of the achievements, and challenges, of the current Animal Welfare legislation, concluding that the legislation has improved the welfare of many of Europe’s animals - notably laying hens, sows and calves - including their protection during transport and at the time of slaughter.

This “Fitness check” is a key step in the revision of the legislation, which was announced, in May 2020, in the Farm to Fork Strategy. Under this Strategy, the Commission has committed to revise seven pieces of legislation by 2023, to ensure a higher level of animal welfare. This is done by aligning the current rules with the latest scientific evidence, broadening their scope an making them easier to enforce, as well as in contributing to achieve a more sustainable food system.

Fitness Check

The Fitness Check is presented in a Commission Staff Working Document, and is initiated by the Commission. It aims to assess whether the existing rules are still fit for purpose, in particular the extent to which they are relevant, efficient, effective, coherent, and have EU added value. The Fitness Check relied on extensive desk research, a series of targeted stakeholders’ consultation activities, and a Public Consultation to which almost 60.000 citizens and stakeholders contributed.

Key findings

The review shows that the current legislation has brought additional benefits for animals, and society, such as higher meat quality and enhanced ecosystem services, and has contributed to a lower use of antibiotics. Nevertheless, some gaps have been identified including, for example, in the keeping of animals and the absence, in the legislation, of specific welfare requirements for certain animals, such as dairy cows or cats and dogs.

Moreover, the enforcement of the current rules remains insufficient in some areas, also due to the vagueness of some provisions adopted, for some of them, more than twenty years ago. The legislation also needs to be updated to take into account citizens’ expectations in this area such as the phasing out of cages.

Comprehensive revision

The Fitness Check will now serve as input to the comprehensive revision of the animal welfare legislation, expected to be presented in the second half of 2023. This revision will be one of the building blocks of the Farm to Fork Strategy, which aims to make EU food systems more sustainable. The Commission is working on the revision and the assessment of the economic, social and environmental impacts of possible future changes. The report will serve as input to this process and will be complemented by additional scientific input as well as further stakeholders’ consultations.

Introphoto: Finishing pigs (©WUR)