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MEPs want Commission chief to set EU animal welfare revision as a priority

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A group of more than 100 European Parliament lawmakers have formally asked Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to announce the promised overhaul of the EU’s animal welfare legislation as a pending priority, in a bid to present it before her mandate ends next year.

On Wednesday (6 September), MEPs from the European Parliament’s intergroup on the welfare and conservation of animals addressed an open letter to von der Leyen, ahead of her annual address in Strasbourg on 13 September, to express “the urgent request to express a firm commitment to the delivery of the revised animal welfare legislation”.

In the letter, the group, which brings together more than 100 MEPs from all political groups, asked to “include the four proposals in the Commission’s work programme for 2024, as pending priority proposals” and respect the current schedule for its presentation, which is in the third quarter of 2023.

Contacted by EURACTIV, the signatory of the letter and president of the Animal Welfare Intergroup, the Green MEP Tilly Metz, said she remains confident that the revision can be mentioned in this year’s State of the Union address.

“I really hope she will, that would be a good reassurance that something is really coming out,” she said.

According to Metz, several initiatives on animal welfare have been concluded during this legislative period, including some Parliament resolutions and the work of the inquiry committee on the protection of animals during transport – but now there is the need for the cherry on the cake.

“We need to change the legislative text, otherwise they were just nice initiatives,” she added.

The Commission announced a general overhaul of the EU legislation on animal welfare in its 2020 Farm to Fork Strategy, which represents the agri-food portion of the EU’s flagship environmental policy, the Green Deal.

At this stage, a draft of the final proposal already passed the first quality control of the Regulatory Scrutiny Board (RSB) leading some EU officials to be optimistic about proposing the new legislation in time before the end of the year.

However, concerns remain over the strict timeline for a proposal as there is still a long way to negotiate the text that the Commission will eventually put forward. For Green and socialist MEPs in particular, the run-up to the European elections in June 2024 could prove a game-changer for the file to be put on hold.

According to the Parliament’s intergroup, there are growing calls from citizens to raise and uphold animal welfare standards, as highlighted in the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘End the Cage Age’.

“Millions of citizens are waiting for the European Commission to deliver on these promises and it is in the interest of the credibility of our European institutions not to let them down,” the letter reads.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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