Over the past decade, animal welfare has become a matter of growing public concern. As purchasing choices are instrumental to the economic viability of the agro- and food- sectors, the industry has been trying to find ways to rebuild and maintain consumer trust. Experts claim that changes in consumer awareness of welfare standards have even induced changes in supply-chain policies. Food chains and quality retailers, including McDonald’s Europe and Marks & Spencer have brought about considerable improvements in animal welfare, through using their substantial purchasing power to enforce standards.
It is generally established that animal welfare policies increase production costs. However, practitioners argue that improved animal welfare outweighs higher expenses through positive benefits, such as lower mortality and occurrence of certain diseases, and a higher proportion of quality animals selling at a better price.
Animal welfare has been a long-standing concern of the EU. A considerable number of directives and regulations have been implemented on specific aspects, such as transport, slaughter and keep. However, some gaps still remain. To address those, the Commission is planning to strengthen compliance with existing rules, focus on indicators related to the animals themselves rather than their environment, and improve training for professionals and consumer information.
The EU is also actively promoting animal welfare through increased international cooperation with the Council of Europe and the World Organisation for Animal Health.