Animal welfare in the EU: closing the gap between ambitious goals and practical implementation
About the report The EU has some of the world’s highest animal welfare standards, which have been in force for decades, and animal welfare objectives are embedded in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The most recent Commission animal welfare strategy aimed to address compliance issues and to improve synergies with the CAP. We found that EU actions to improve animal welfare were successful in some areas, but there were delays in their implementation and weaknesses persist in certain areas related to welfare issues on the farm, during transport and at slaughter. We make recommendations covering the strategic framework, Commission enforcement and guidance actions to support Member States in achieving compliance, and actions to strengthen the links between animal welfare and the agricultural policy.
The EU has some of the world’s highest regulatory animal welfare standards, which include general requirements on the rearing, transport and slaughter of farm animals and specific requirements for certain species. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) provides an opportunity to contribute to farmers’ awareness of their legal obligations (through cross-compliance, which links their CAP payments to compliance with minimum requirements) and to incentivise farmers to pursue higher standards (through financial support granted under the rural development policy).II
EU citizens are increasingly concerned about farming’s effects on animal welfare, and the interrelated impact on public and animal health. The Commission has produced strategy documents to provide a framework for its actions in this area. The latest EU strategy covered the period from 2012 to 2015.III
The audit examined the welfare of farm animals and the overall implementation of the latest EU strategy, focusing on its two key objectives: to achieve compliance with the minimum standards and to optimise synergies with the CAP. We concluded that EU actions to improve animal welfare were successful in some areas, but there are still some weaknesses in compliance with minimum standards, there is room to improve coordination with cross-compliance checks, and the financial resources of the CAP could be better used to promote higher animal welfare standards.IV
The findings of our audit showed that the Commission has used both guidance and enforcement to achieve compliance in the Member States. Its actions have been successful in important areas, most notably on the group housing of sows and the ban on unenriched cages that do not allow laying hens to express their natural behaviour. The Commission and the Member States worked on guidelines to facilitate the understanding and consistent application of legislative requirements and they have distributed them widely. The Member States we visited generally took action to address Commission audit recommendations.V
However, weaknesses still persisted in some areas related to welfare issues on the farm (in particular, the routine tail docking of pigs), during transport (compliance with rules on long distance transport and the transport of unfit animals) and at slaughter (use of the derogation for slaughter without stunning and inadequate stunning procedures). The Member States we visited took a long time to address some of the recommendations made by the Commission following its audits.VI
The Member States’ official control systems are a key factor in ensuring that animal welfare standards are properly enforced. We found good practices in this area, in particular with regard to the consistency of official inspections, but also a need to focus on areas and business operators with a higher risk of non-compliance. Furthermore, Member States could make better use of the information gained from internal audits and complaints to improve their management of the animal welfare policy.VII
The Member States have generally put in place appropriate arrangements for cross-compliance checks related to animal welfare. However, there is scope for improving coordination with official inspections on animal welfare. Furthermore, there were cases where the cross-compliance penalties applied by Paying Agencies were not proportionate to the seriousness of the irregularities.VIII
The objective of promoting animal welfare is a rural development priority for the 2014-2020 period and we found good examples of actions beneficial for animals in the Member States visited. However, the “Animal Welfare” measure was not widely used. There were certain weaknesses in the cost-effectiveness of the measure and Member States rarely used the opportunity to support animal welfare through other rural development measures.IX
We make recommendations to the Commission aimed at improving their management of the animal welfare policy. Our recommendations cover the strategic framework for animal welfare, more effective enforcement and guidance to achieve compliance, actions to strengthen the links between the cross-compliance system and animal welfare and action to better address animal welfare objectives through the rural development policy.
Animal welfare: definition and importance in the EU01
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) provided the following definition of good animal welfare in 2008: “An animal is in a good state of welfare, if it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate [natural] behaviour, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and distress.” The concept of animal welfare is enshrined in Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which recognises animals as sentient beings.02
According to a European Parliament study1, there are an estimated 4.5 billion chickens, egg-laying hens and turkeys in the EU, and 330 million cattle, pigs, goats and sheep. Based on information from an animal welfare organisation, an estimated 0.25 million horses are slaughtered annually for meat2.03
Knowledge of animal welfare has increased rapidly in recent years and has been the subject of considerable media attention. The European Parliament adopted two resolutions (in 2010 and 2015) on the EU animal welfare policy3. Action in the EU on animal welfare stems from four main sources, each with its own control mechanism (see Figure 1).
The EU’s animal welfare legislation aims to improve the quality of animals’ lives, while also meeting citizens’ expectations and market demands, by setting minimum standards. It is widely recognised that the EU has some of the world’s highest animal welfare standards4. Most of these standards concern farm animals (on the farm, during transport and at slaughter), while legislation also covers wildlife, laboratory animals and pets. As shown in Figure 2, the first EU animal welfare legislation was introduced over 40 years ago, and has been updated several times. Member States may adopt stricter rules, if they are compatible with EU legislation. For example, 13 Member States have adopted additional national measures on slaughter.
Member States are responsible for applying EU animal welfare rules at national level, including official inspections5, while the European Commission (DG SANTE) is responsible for ensuring that Member States implement EU legislation properly. The European Food Safety Authority is responsible for providing relevant scientific advice to the Commission. Member States report to the Commission annually on the results of their animal welfare inspections on farms and during transport. The Commission may take legal action against Member States that fail to correctly transpose and implement the EU legislation.
Animal welfare and the Common Agricultural Policy06
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) contributes to animal welfare objectives through cross-compliance (linking most CAP payments to farmers to meeting minimum requirements) and by financing activities and projects for animal welfare (see Figure 3).
Cross-compliance is a mechanism that links most CAP payments6 (around €46 billion in 2016)7 to compliance with a series of rules on the environment, maintaining land in good agricultural condition, animal welfare, and public, animal and plant health. It does not apply to small farmers8, who represent about 40 % of the total number of EU farmers9. Farmers who fail to comply with these standards and requirements can have their CAP payments reduced by 1 % to 5 %, or more if the non-compliance is intentional. In exceptional cases, the authorities may exclude farmers from aid schemes.08
The cross-compliance system does not cover all the legislative requirements on animal welfare: it includes provisions to protect calves and pigs, and others setting general requirements for all farm animals10.09
Livestock farmers in sectors that do not typically receive the relevant CAP payments (most EU poultry farms and many pig farms in certain Member States) are by definition not covered by this penalty system. At EU level11, the general cross-compliance requirements for animal welfare cover about 55 % of all EU farms with livestock, while the specific Directive requirements for the protection of pigs cover about 65 % of pig farms.10
Member States carry out on-the-spot checks to verify if the farmers are meeting the cross-compliance requirements. These checks must cover at least 1 % of CAP beneficiaries. The Commission (DG AGRI) performs audits to check if Member States have adequate control systems for cross-compliance.11
The rural development policy can also address animal welfare objectives, for example through training courses or by providing financial compensation for farmers who apply higher animal welfare standards than those required by EU and national legislation or normal practice. The Member States decide which measures to activate based on their needs. The Commission (DG AGRI) approves Member States’ rural development programmes. Based on the approved programmes, Member States then select the beneficiaries that will receive funding.12
The largest direct source of EU funding for animal welfare activities is the rural development measure “animal welfare payments” (measure 14), which provides support for high standards of animal husbandry going beyond the relevant mandatory standards12. For the 2014-2020 period, 18 Member States allocated €1.5 billion to this measure (1.5 % of the total planned expenditure for all measures)13. Figure 4 shows planned and actual expenditure for this measure in the programming period 2014-2020. These funds are supplemented by national spending, which brings the total budget for this measure to almost €2.5 billion.
Animal welfare and economic interests13
The EU’s livestock sector represents 45 % of its total agricultural activity. It generates an output of €168 billion annually and provides around 4 million jobs14. Linked sectors (milk and meat processing, feed for livestock) have an annual turnover of approximately €400 billion. The consistent application of animal welfare standards has an impact on the level playing field in these sectors.14
Applying certain animal welfare standards (for example, providing minimum space to calves) imposes costs on business operators. In 2010 DG SANTE estimated15 these costs at 2 % of farm output, but also concluded that the benefits of higher animal welfare standards are enhanced productivity, product quality and business image.15
According to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)16, food safety is indirectly affected by the welfare of farmed animals, due to the close links between animal welfare, animal health and food-borne diseases. Poor welfare can lead to increased susceptibility to disease and higher mortality. If there is a risk to public health, food safety inspectors will not approve the meat for human consumption, leading to financial losses for producers and processors.16
There is widespread evidence17 that meat quality is influenced by animal welfare. Good treatment on the farm, during transport and during pre-slaughter handling is important, because the meat from stressed and injured animals can have a lower value due to discolouration and loss of tenderness.17
Still, good animal welfare does not always go hand in hand with the economic interest of business operators. In intensive production systems, the higher the stocking density, the higher the profits but the more difficult it is to meet specific animal needs. Intensive systems can therefore lead to aberrant behaviour in laying hens such as feather pecking and cannibalism, aggression and tail biting in pigs and aggression in calves. To control this undesirable behaviour, it is common practice to perform painful physical alterations on animals, in particular beak trimming, tail docking, castration and teeth clipping. EU legislation addresses these issues notably through the minimum space requirements and rules on physical alterations (which allow certain procedures only in exceptional cases, after other measures have been taken to prevent the undesirable behaviour).18
Similarly, the economic interest of transport operators is adversely affected by lower stocking densities and interrupting journeys to let animals rest. During slaughterhouse operations, the speed of the production chain is a key productivity factor, but this may affect the proper handling of animals prior to slaughter and the effectiveness of the stunning methods. There may also be other commercial reasons for not following good practices at slaughter (see example in Box 1).
Stunning of calves with methods not listed in good practice guidelines, for commercial reasons
A slaughterhouse we visited in France used an alternative method for stunning calves (occipital stunning) to the one indicated in Commission and inter-professional good practice guides (frontal stunning). Both methods are in line with the slaughter Regulation18. An EFSA opinion19 on welfare aspects of stunning indicates that frontal stunning induces reliably effective stunning, whereas with occipital stunning there is a risk that it may be misdirected. This would result in shooting in the nape of the neck, which gives unsatisfactory results. The commercial advantage of the alternative method is that there are fewer brain lesions and bone splinters, allowing for better marketing of the brain.
The EU animal welfare strategy19
In 2010 the Commission concluded20 that the existing animal welfare legislation had generally improved welfare for the groups of animals to which it applied. However, it found that implementation varied across the EU, which hindered progress towards uniform high standards. Following a recommendation21 from the European Parliament, in 2012 the Commission launched the EU strategy for the protection and welfare of animals 2012-201522, which set out the following objectives:
- to consider the feasibility of introducing a simplified EU legislative framework with animal welfare principles for all animals kept in the context of an economic activity;
- to support Member States and take action to improve compliance;
- to optimise synergies with the Common Agricultural Policy, notably through cross-compliance and rural development;
- to support international cooperation;
- to provide consumers and the public with appropriate information;
- to investigate the welfare of farmed fish.
The strategy also included a list of 20 actions that the Commission intended to complete by 2015, focused mostly on publishing reports, studies and guidelines (see Annex I).
Audit scope and approach20
One of the strategic goals of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) is to examine performance in areas where EU action matters to citizens. The aim of this audit, which is the first carried out by ECA in this area, was to assess the actions taken by the Commission and the Member States to improve the welfare of farm animals following the launch of the EU strategy for animal welfare 2012-2015. We focused on two key objectives identified in the EU strategy, which we considered to have a direct impact on animal welfare: to improve compliance with the animal welfare legislation, and to optimise synergies with the CAP through cross-compliance and rural development (objectives (ii) and (iii) listed in paragraph 19).21
Our audit sought to answer the following audit question:
Have the Commission and the Member States actions contributed effectively to achieving the EU animal welfare objectives?22
We examined whether:
- the Commission’s strategy had been completed and had delivered its results;
- the guidance and enforcement actions of the Commission had led to better application of EU standards in key risk areas;
- the Member States we visited managed key aspects of their control systems effectively;
- cross-compliance was an effective tool to integrate animal welfare requirements into the Common Agricultural Policy and rural development measures incentivised higher animal welfare standards in a cost-effective way.
For points (a) and (b), we examined the evidence available to show the results of the Commission’s actions carried out to implement the animal welfare strategy. For points (c) and (d), we performed a direct assessment of Member States’ systems and procedures to address certain key risks.24
We carried out our audit work from September 2017 to June 2018 and covered the period from 2012 to early 2018. For rural development measures, we examined the current programming period, which started in 2014. The timing of the audit allows us to assess the implementation of the 2012-2015 animal welfare strategy, at a time when the post-2020 CAP is being discussed.25
We selected a sample of five Member States based on the size of the livestock sector and on the existence of animal welfare compliance weaknesses already identified by the Commission (DG SANTE)23: Germany, France, Italy, Poland and Romania. In Germany and Italy we selected North-Rhine Westphalia and Sardinia to examine the regional implementation of the animal welfare measure and the application of the rules on official inspections. Together, the selected Member States account for more than 50 % of the EU meat market and the selected rural development programmes cover about 40 % of the planned expenditure on animal welfare.26
During our audit visits to Member States, we had meetings with the authorities responsible for official inspections, for checking cross-compliance and for the implementation of the rural development programmes. To better understand the systems, we observed official animal welfare inspections of farms, transport and slaughter, together with on the spot checks for cross-compliance and rural development.27
At the Commission, we visited the Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) and the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI). In addition, we organised an expert panel to obtain independent advice on animal welfare issues.
The Commission has concluded the second EU Strategy for animal welfare, but it has not assessed its impact28
The Commission completed the last action in its 2012-2015 animal welfare strategy in April 2018, more than three years after the strategy was supposed to be concluded (see Annex I). The strategy does not identify an explicit link between the list of actions envisaged for the period 2012-2015 and the general objectives identified (see paragraph 19). Concerning two of the strategy objectives, the Commission has not reviewed the legislative framework or taken any action to optimise synergies with the Common Agricultural Policy.29
Some of the actions planned by the Commission were delayed by up to five years (for example, the EU guidelines on the protection of animals during transport). The guidelines on pig welfare and on the protection of animals at slaughter were also delayed due to lengthy discussions with stakeholders. Most reports were based on external studies, which were sometimes delayed due to lack of staff at the Commission to manage the procurement process and review draft content. According to the Commission, certain enforcement activities (involving in some cases infringement procedures at the Court of Justice) related to the laying hens Directive (ban on traditional cages) and the pigs Directive (group housing of sows) were lengthy due to the high number of Member States involved.30
The Commission did not renew the 2012–2015 strategy. However, it continued to facilitate stakeholder dialogue through the EU Animal Welfare Platform (launched in 2017), and set up the first EU Reference Centre for Animal Welfare24 to provide technical assistance on pig welfare to Member States. The EU Animal Welfare Platform has a particular focus on better application of EU rules on animal welfare, the development and use of voluntary animal welfare commitments and the promotion of EU animal welfare standards at global level. The Platform established two sub-groups, working to achieve concrete results in animal transport and pig welfare.31
There are no baseline indicators or target indicators to measure how far the strategy objectives have been achieved and the Commission had not yet evaluated the results of its actions as requested by the European Parliament25.32
Certain reports and studies produced at the Commission’s initiative contain useful information on compliance (see paragraphs 34 and 35). In particular, the Audit Directorate of DG SANTE performs audits and reports on specific animal welfare issues in selected Member States; however, these audits do not seek to assess the success of the Commission’s strategic actions.33
Member States send annual reports to the Commission on the results of their official inspections performed under the EU legislation for animal welfare on farms26 and during transport. The Commission has recognised that the data reported is not complete, consistent, reliable or sufficiently detailed to draw conclusions on compliance at EU level27. The Commission informed us that it is seeking to improve the quality and consistency of the data reported under the new Regulation on official controls28.
The Commission and the Member States reported significant progress in applying EU standards34
Good progress has been made on animal welfare in some areas covered by the strategy. In 201629 the Commission reported on improvements in the number of farm holdings complying with the Directive on the protection of farm animals. It concluded that the ban on unenriched cages for laying hens (2012) and individual stalls for sows (2013) was implemented effectively by the Member States. A Commission report from 201830 shows that some Member States improved welfare for broiler chickens, following their implementation of the Directive on broilers (2007). The Commission has also identified good practices concerning the transport of unfit animals, slaughter, welfare of dairy cows and commercial rabbit farming.35
However, Commission reports identified some outstanding animal welfare issues related to the areas covered by the strategy:
- on the farm: tail docking of pigs31, diseases affecting the welfare of dairy cattle32, assessment of technical requirements, such as ventilation, for chickens kept for meat production33;
- during transport: compliance with the rules on long distance transport of live animals (though recent Commission audits noted improvements in this area)34 and the transport of unfit animals35 (which is prohibited by the legislation);
- at slaughter: different practices for the derogation from the requirement to stun animals before slaughter, inadequate stunning procedures (in particular for waterbath stunning of poultry)36;
- Member States’ official inspections: quantity and quality of inspections, appropriateness of enforcement actions37.
The Commission tackled these issues through guidance and through enforcement. Its extensive guidance actions include developing and translating guidelines, carrying out study visits and organising training events for Member State inspectors and business operators. Since 2012, the Commission has organised 34 training events on animal welfare through the Better Training for Safer Food programme (involving more than 1 700 participants) and its e-learning modules have been followed by 6 000 people. Box 2 contains an example of Commission collaboration with Member State representatives and stakeholder organisations to develop guidelines for animal welfare during transport, at slaughter and for the welfare of pigs.
Example of stakeholders’ engagement with the Commission’s initiative to improve animal welfare during transport
The team working on the Animal Transport Guides project launched by the Commission in 2015 asked over 100 stakeholders (farmers, transporters, slaughterhouse personnel, competent authorities and NGOs) from seven Member States to reflect on suggestions for good practice for animal transport. The team also set up a “Stakeholder Platform” to provide advice on the content of the guidelines. The Platform was composed of representatives from 13 international organisations or stakeholder groups.
The Member State authorities we visited found the guidance and training useful and widely disseminated the knowledge they had gained to their official inspectors and business operators. Some authorities expressed the need for more tools and guidelines available in their own languages, to allow for even wider dissemination.38
The Commission monitors the application, implementation and enforcement of EU animal welfare legislation in the Member States by carrying out audit visits, issuing recommendations where necessary, following-up Member States’ action plans, and can take actions against Member States that fail to meet their obligations under the relevant legislation, including launching infringement procedures where appropriate.39
The Commission launched an extensive series of infringement procedures against 18 Member States since 2012, mainly concerning the housing of sows and the ban on traditional cages for laying hens38. According to the Commission, these procedures were successful in achieving compliance with the rules. The Commission also used the “EU pilot scheme”, which involves informal dialogue with the Member State authorities on issues concerning the correct application of EU law. Since 2012, the Commission has initiated 18 EU pilots concerning the Directives on laying hens and pigs, and 5 pilots in other areas (mostly concerning the protection of animals during transport).40
To assess how quickly Member States reacted to the Commission’s recommendations, we reviewed the Commission’s 2012 to 201539 audit reports on animal welfare for the five Member States that we visited, the related action plans and their follow-up. We found that these Member States addressed almost half of the Commission’s recommendations in 2 years or less.
Member States took a long time to address certain recommendations and some issues are still outstanding
Delays in implementing recommendations41
Despite the Commission’s guidance and enforcement actions, the Member States we visited were slow to address a limited number of issues (see Box 3 for some examples). These mainly concerned their official inspection procedures, the qualifications of operators involved in slaughtering, the enforcement of the legal stunning requirements before slaughter, routine tail-docking for pigs and the appropriateness of sanctions for non-compliance. This means that there are still some significant discrepancies between the animal welfare standards established in the EU legislation and the reality on the ground.
Slow progress in addressing certain Commission recommendations
In France, DG SANTE found in 2009 that official inspections at control posts (where animals rest during long-distance journeys within the EU) were not adequate and recommended that the authorities address the weaknesses identified. To address this recommendation, the French authorities stated that they would develop a revised procedure manual for inspectors, but had not done so by the time of our audit in December 2017.
Another Commission recommendation to France (issued in 2010) was to use appropriate equipment to carry out official inspections on environmental parameters (temperature, light intensity and gas concentrations)40 on farms and during transport. The related legislative requirements have been in force since 2000. The French inspectors’ procedure manual specifies that the maximum permitted concentration of NH3 (ammonia) is 20 parts per million and that this should be measured with specialised equipment. The French authorities had not, however, procured all the required equipment by the time of our audit. During our visit to a laying hens farm certified as free-range, where the presence of ammonia inside the building was evident, the French inspector did not have the necessary equipment to measure the level of gas concentration. The inspector noted in the inspection report that the related requirement had been met. In spring 2018, French authorities notified the Commission that they had procured measurement equipment. However, inspectors were only asked to use this on farms raising chickens for meat.
Over a series of audits in Romania between 2009 and 2011, DG SANTE recommended that the competent authority apply effective, dissuasive and proportionate sanctions for non-compliance with the animal welfare legislation. At the time of our audit, the Romanian authorities had not yet approved the necessary changes in the legislation to apply such sanctions.
The Commission recently closed its recommendation concerning the practice of forced moulting in laying hen farms in Italy almost 13 years after it had originally raised this issue. Forced moulting involves provoking a flock to shed their feathers simultaneously, typically by withdrawing food, water and/or light, with the aim to increase egg production.
The Commission follows up on its recommendations based on evidence provided by Member States that they have put in place measures to address the identified weaknesses, and does not usually check on the spot the actual implementation and effectiveness of those measures. We found some cases where the Commission had closed its audit recommendations, but the Member States had not addressed all issues effectively41.
Insufficient information on whether the Member States have addressed the issues identified by the Commission on the use of the derogation for slaughter without stunning43
The EU legislation for the protection of animals at the time of killing in slaughterhouses42 has been applicable since 2013 and aims to minimise the pain and suffering of animals by using approved stunning methods. The legislation contains a derogation to the stunning requirement which was already in the previous 1993 legislation, for animals subject to particular methods of slaughter prescribed by religious rites43, provided that the slaughter takes place in a slaughterhouse. The recital of the EU legislation44 emphasises freedom of religion as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the importance of leaving a certain level of subsidiarity to each Member State. The legislation does not indicate practical implementation methods or any reporting requirements on the use of the derogation. Not all Member States collect information on the use of the derogation.44
The Commission’s 2010 evaluation of EU animal welfare policy and the impact assessment accompanying the 2012-2015 animal welfare strategy45 identified the issue that “certain slaughterhouse operators excessively use the derogation from stunning to streamline their production process”.45
In 2015, following 13 audit visits46, the Commission found wide variations in the way Member States operated the derogation for slaughter without stunning. It found better animal welfare results where the slaughter procedure was subject to targeted checks. Following these audits, the Commission attempted to gather data from Member States on the use of the derogation. However, the data provided was insufficient to allow any conclusions to be drawn at EU level. Aside from this data collection and the production of a study on the opportunity to provide consumers with the relevant information on the stunning of animals47, the Commission did not undertake specific action to address the issue it had identified as regards the excessive use of the derogation. Our work showed that only one out of the five Member States visited had no specific procedures to check the justification for applying the derogation. It confirmed the Commission’s conclusions as regards the availability of data on the use of the derogation (see Table 1).
|Member State||There is a specific procedure to check the justification for applying the derogation||Availability of information on the extent of slaughter without stunning|
|France||✔||Limited - only for cattle and sheep, based on operators’ estimations|
|Italy||✔||Limited - only number of slaughterhouses authorised to perform slaughter without stunning|
|Poland||✘||Limited - some estimations exist for cattle and poultry, not validated by the competent authorities|
Source: ECA, based on evidence gathered from Member States.46
In November 2017 the Commission published extensive guidance on the protection of animals at the time of killing, including best practices for the use of the derogation, which focuses on technical aspects of the procedure.
Member States’ management of their official inspection systems generally ensures consistency but there are some weaknesses in the control and audit systems47
The quality of the Member States’ animal welfare inspections on the farm, during transport and at the slaughterhouse has a direct impact on the level of compliance with the requirements. We analysed the consistency and targeting of these inspections, and how they were audited by the Member State authorities.
Member States have generally put in place systems to ensure that inspections are performed consistently48
Official veterinarians employed in governmental organizations enforce animal welfare standards. To be effective, inspections need to be performed consistently and independently.49
Most of the Member States we visited had procedures to ensure that the inspectors’ work was consistent49.50
We found that in all Member States visited, the official veterinarians were subject to the general rules on the integrity of public officials requiring them to be free of conflicts of interest. We identified good practices in France and Italy (Sardinia) where additional, specific procedures were applied to prevent conflicts of interest for their official inspectors (see Box 4).
Good practices in preventing conflict of interest
Italy (Sardinia) had recently adopted guidelines for preventing conflict of interest in the case of staff performing official inspections and had introduced an experimental three-year rotation programme, developed on three levels: territorial rotation, functional rotation and function segregation. It also introduced specific measures for the protection of whistleblowers.
France had introduced a programme whereby specialised staff would carry out supervision activities for red meat slaughterhouses. This mitigates the risk of conflict of interest because it allows for an external verification of the activities of the official veterinarians carrying out regular inspection tasks in slaughterhouses.
Insufficient evidence that Member States plan official inspections based on a risk analysis51
The Member States’ official inspection systems cover other areas in addition to animal welfare, notably compliance with rules on food and feed safety, hygiene, the control and eradication of animal diseases and the use of pesticides. Given that all these areas are competing for resources, risk-based inspections help target animal welfare problems and thus use the limited inspection resources in a more effective and efficient way. Performing risk-based inspections is an EU legal requirement50.52
The Member States had generally set up clear rules requiring that animal welfare inspections on the farm be risk based. We identified good practices in identifying risk factors in all the Member States visited. For example, France requires inspectors to plan their farm checks based on the information about the history of the operators, complaints received, use of prophylactic measures, data from slaughterhouses (on transport density, transport of unfit animals) and data on mortality rates or other indicators such as milk quality or calving intervals.53
However, three out of the five Member States visited (Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia), Poland and Romania) could not demonstrate how the risk factors established were used in practice to select operators for inspection.54
Furthermore, in two Member States, certain farms were excluded from official inspections, although they represented a large share of the livestock sector (see Box 5). Although in view of limited inspection resources it is reasonable to prioritise checks on larger farms, the risk that non-compliance at smaller farms might increase if they were completely excluded from inspections was not sufficiently considered by the authorities.
Exclusions in the population of farms to be checked
In Italy, pig farms with fewer than 40 pigs or 6 sows and goat, sheep and cattle (other than calves) farms with fewer than 50 animals are excluded from the population to be checked. In Sardinia, this leads to 85 % of pig farms, 67 % of goat farms and 86 % of cattle (other than calves) farms not being subject to animal welfare checks.
In Romania, although no farms were formally excluded from the scope of animal welfare checks, in practice the authorities did not check agricultural holdings that fall within the definition of “non-professional farms”. These holdings cover many of the animals in the pig sector (45 %) and almost all animals in the sheep and goat sector (99 %).
As regards the transport of live animals, of the Member States we visited, only France had identified risk areas to be targeted by road inspections. However, there was no information available to show that this was applied in practice.56
TRACES (the EU online platform used to monitor intra-EU long distance, cross-border movements of animals) contains information and reporting tools that the authorities could use to target inspections of animal transports. In meetings with representatives from Member States, the Commission has promoted the use of interactive search tools. However, we found that Member State authorities responsible for transport inspections rarely used information from TRACES to target inspections, in part due to certain user access restrictions51.57
Member State authorities usually delegate the responsibility for carrying out the risk analysis for farm and transport inspections to local authorities. None of the Member States visited had put in place systems to check the existence, quality and implementation of the local risk analyses.58
Animal welfare inspections in slaughterhouses generally covered almost all operators in the Member States we visited, either through focused checks or as part of the daily activities of the official veterinarian on duty.
Information from audits and complaints could be better used59
The EU Regulation on official controls52 requires Member States to audit their systems for official inspections on feed and food law and animal health and welfare and Commission Decision 2006/677/EC sets out guidelines recommending that such audits are conducted at least every five years53. We found that in the Member States visited, the relevant authority’s internal audit department (and, in the case of Poland, also the Supreme Audit Office) identified areas for improvement in the organisation of official inspections and followed up their audit findings. However, Poland did not ensure that audits on animal welfare are done at least every five years. Furthermore, Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia) and Romania did not ensure a timely follow-up of audit recommendations.60
The Commission checks how the Member States audit their systems of official inspections and has found54 that it is challenging for Member States to audit all the areas requiring official inspections in a reasonable timeframe, and to follow-up audit results.61
The authorities can use complaints and requests for inquiry submitted to them by animal welfare organisations, citizens or other stakeholders to identify key areas of concern. The management of these complaints falls exclusively under the Member States’ responsibility.62
We found that the Member States visited dealt with complaints on a case-by-case basis and two of them (Poland and Romania) had procedures in place, including deadlines for dealing with complaints. None of the Member States had implemented a central register of complaints to give an overview of the main areas of concern in animal welfare and support further decision making.63
Member States make limited use of the Common Agricultural Policy tools to address animal welfare objectives64
The majority of livestock farmers receive CAP payments (see paragraph 9) involving cross-compliance requirements covering certain animal welfare conditions (see paragraph 8). The Commission’s 2012-2015 strategy recognised a need to improve synergies between animal welfare and the tools of the CAP, notably through cross-compliance and rural development. We examined how the Member States visited used these two mechanisms with regard to animal welfare.
Limited exchange of results between official inspections and cross-compliance checks in the Member States and weaknesses in the application of penalties
EU legislation provides the basis for coordination between the cross-compliance checks and official inspections65
The official inspections and the cross-compliance checks both involve planning and carrying out visits, checking compliance with animal welfare legislation and deciding on appropriate actions to deal with non-compliance. It is up to the Member States to decide the extent of integration between the official inspections and the cross-compliance checks, within the limits of the EU legislative requirements.66
The Delegated Regulation for cross-compliance indicates that non-compliance shall be deemed to be “determined” after having been brought to the attention of the competent control authority or paying agency55. In many Member States, the Paying Agency has delegated the responsibility for cross-compliance checks to the control authority for official inspections. This means that any non-compliance identified at a CAP beneficiary during these inspections should be considered for the purposes of cross-compliance. This requires a system or a procedure that ensures the exchange of relevant information between the authorities56 concerned.67
The Commission provided guidance on the application of the regulatory requirements for cross-compliance checks57. This guidance indicates that Member States could use the outcome of their official inspections to reach the minimum control rate under cross-compliance58. Good coordination between the two control systems not only makes them more efficient by creating economies of scale and avoiding overlaps, but it also helps detect non-compliance more effectively. Furthermore, a consistent approach to animal welfare checks provides more clarity for farmers and higher incentives to meet the applicable standards.
Member States have not used this opportunity enough to improve their control systems, though good practices were identified68
All of the Member States we visited had taken steps to coordinate their official inspection and cross-compliance systems. We found good examples of coordination in Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia), France and Italy (Sardinia) (see Box 6).
Examples of good coordination between authorities involved in animal welfare checks
In Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia), inspectors performing official inspections on animal welfare requested cross-compliance checks, if they considered the cross-compliance requirements were not being met. If the additional check confirmed this issue, the farmer received an administrative penalty under cross-compliance, even if the farm was not part of the cross-compliance control sample. Similarly, non-compliances identified during a cross-compliance check could lead to fines under the official inspection system.
In France, inspectors had to report non-compliances identified during official inspections to the authorities responsible for applying payment reductions under cross-compliance. Inspectors carried out “dual purpose” inspections by paying one visit to the farmer and using an integrated checklist for the purposes of both the official inspection and the cross-compliance check.
In Italy (Sardinia), the approach to calculating cross-compliance administrative penalties was consistent with the rules for categorising the results of official inspections. This facilitated the work of inspectors who carried out both types of checks and resulted in a consistent approach in treating non-compliances. The other Member States we visited did not adopt such an approach.
In Romania there were formal arrangements to communicate non-compliance cases detected by official animal welfare inspections to the authorities responsible for the application of cross-compliance penalties, but this had not been done in practice by the date of our audit. In Poland, there was no such formal arrangement.70
When the Commission carries out audits of Member States’ cross-compliance checks, it also reviews their procedures on exchange of information. However, it does not check if, in practice, the results of official animal welfare inspections performed at CAP beneficiaries by the same competent control body as for cross-compliance are reported to the authority responsible for imposing administrative penalties under cross-compliance.
Cross-compliance checks generally cover the relevant animal welfare requirements71
We found that Member States’ cross-compliance checks generally covered relevant animal welfare requirements59. However, in three out of the five Member States visited (France, Poland60 and Romania) there were some exceptions. For example, in Romania the inspectors did not check cleanliness of the housing and lying areas for calves and pigs, iron levels in the diet of calves and environmental parameters such as dust levels, gas concentrations and temperature.72
The Commission’s audits verify if Member States’ cross-compliance checklists cover all relevant animal welfare requirements and its recent audits identified omissions in Estonia, Spain, Austria, Portugal and Finland. Some of these findings have resulted in financial corrections61.
Some Member States did not ensure that the penalties applied under cross-compliance are proportionate to the seriousness of the non-compliances identified73
In order to have a dissuasive effect, the cross-compliance payment reduction should be proportionate to the severity, extent, duration and reoccurrence of the non-compliance found62. Our recent Special Report63 on the effectiveness of cross-compliance identified that there were significant variations between Member States in how they categorised the seriousness of a breach.74
We found that Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia), France and Italy (Sardinia) had clear rules for proportionate payment reductions. The most frequently used reduction percentage applied was 3 %64 except in Italy, where more than 70 % of the non-compliances resulted in warnings, without any administrative penalty. In Romania, a farm where inspectors identified non-compliances for up to 30 % of the relevant check points would be considered as fully compliant. This lenient definition was reflected in the extremely low number of non-compliances reported, with only 3 out of about 13 500 farms checked having received an administrative penalty in 2016 (see Annex IV, which also shows that control rates and reported non-compliances varied widely). The cross-compliance requirements for animal welfare have been applicable in Romania since 2016, to allow for an adjustment period following accession in 2007.75
In Poland, the payment reduction was based on a scoring system allocating points to each infringement of animal welfare provisions relating to a particular legal act. When deciding the payment reduction percentage to be applied, only the provision that had received the highest number of points was considered. This means that while the payment reduction considers the seriousness of a specific non-compliance, it is not linked to the number of non-compliances identified.76
Some recent Commission audits65 have found that the sanctions system is too lenient for cross-compliance in general and for animal welfare requirements in particular because it does not ensure that sanctions are proportionate to the seriousness of the non-compliances. The Commission has provided some general clarifications on this in reply to questions from the Member States and in May 2018 organised an expert group meeting where Member States exchanged good practices concerning cross-compliance controls on animal welfare. However, Commission guidance documents on cross-compliance do not deal with this issue.
Rural development: few incentives for improving animal welfare and cost-effectiveness is not guaranteed77
Rural development support provides funds for animal welfare objectives. The Commission’s animal welfare strategy for 2012-2015 included an objective to optimise the synergies with rural development support for animal welfare. For maximum cost-effectiveness, Member States should target actions with the greatest potential contribution towards animal welfare per unit of cost.
Rural development funds not extensively used to promote animal welfare78
In the current programming period 2014-2020, 35 out of 118 rural development programmes include the specific measure (“measure 14”) to support animal welfare (see paragraph 12); 13 of them are from regions in Italy.79
The rural development legislation refers to animal welfare under the priority “promoting food chain organisation, including processing and marketing of agricultural products, animal welfare and risk management in agriculture”66. This priority has two focus areas67, but these do not refer to animal welfare.80
Ten Member States have not used measure 14 in their rural development programmes. Two of the Member States we visited (France and Poland) did not use this measure because they considered that the basic legislative requirements for animal welfare were sufficient. Furthermore, the Polish authorities considered that the measure might have a negative impact on farmers’ competitiveness. In France, this choice contrasted with the national strategy on animal welfare launched in 2016, which contained an objective to attract rural development funds to help farmers improve animal welfare. The French strategy was launched after the approval of the rural development programmes, and France did not update the programmes to reflect their commitment.81
Several other rural development measures (notably support for farm investments, quality schemes or organic farming) have the potential to encourage higher animal welfare standards. Two of the Member States visited had examples of such measures targeting animal welfare (see Box 7).
Use of rural development measures to target animal welfare
Germany (North Rhine-Westphalia): beneficiaries applying for support for investments in animal housing under measure 4 (farm investments) have to fulfil specific animal welfare requirements that go beyond minimum standards. For example, cattle sheds have to respect higher standards for the space available for each animal and natural lighting.
France: measure 4 (farm investments) from the Alsatian programme prioritises free range and organic systems, farms using special equipment for the welfare of rabbits and using straw bedding for pigs.
“Animal Welfare” measure: good examples of actions that are beneficial for animals, but cost-effectiveness is not guaranteed82
We reviewed Member States’ systems to assess whether the specific animal welfare measure (“measure 14”) is cost-effective. We checked whether the support rewards farmers for actual improvements in animal welfare going beyond minimum standards, in line with the additional costs incurred and income foregone and if there is sufficient relevant monitoring information.
Going beyond minimum standards83
Member State authorities defined the improved animal welfare conditions required to qualify for support under measure 14, such as summer pasture grazing for bovines, more space for animals on farms and during transport, and improved housing conditions.84
In Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia) and in Romania, as in most other Member States, tail docking is routine in intensive pig farms, although this is prohibited by the legislation. During our visits to these two Member States we saw that pigs in farms receiving measure 14 support had their tails docked and did not have access to sufficient enrichment material, as required by the legislation68(see Figure 5).85
Veterinary experts69 agree that the impact on welfare of a single parameter is limited if not combined with other husbandry parameters. This means that an increase of 10 or 20 % in the space available for pigs may not have a high impact on their welfare if there is no enrichment material.
DG AGRI consults DG SANTE before the approval of Member States’ rural development programmes. Despite this, the Commission did not use the information on areas of widespread non-compliance identified by DG SANTE (most notably, the routine tail docking of pigs and provision of enrichment materials, where only Finland and Sweden achieved compliance) to challenge Member States with regard to their use of the measure in those areas.
Mitigating the risk of deadweight87
Deadweight refers to a situation where a subsidised activity would have been wholly or partly undertaken without the grant aid. There is a risk that a beneficiary would have applied the measure 14 requirements even without the rural development support, for example because the measure reflects normal farming practice, or because the beneficiary had already participated in a private quality scheme that covered the same requirements before applying for measure 14 support.88
Our visits to the three Member States that apply the measure 14 showed that the managing authorities did not mitigate the risk of deadweight, particularly linked to private quality schemes. Both beneficiaries of measure 14 that we visited in Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia) and Italy (Sardinia) had adhered to private schemes with animal welfare requirements70. In Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia), the quality scheme covered about 10 % of the pig farms in the region and included paid commitments that overlapped with the requirements of the animal welfare measure.89
We noted that in Italy (Sardinia), the authorities had mitigated the risk that measure 14 could support actions that reflect normal farming practices. The authorities considered both legal animal welfare requirements and the higher standards that local farmers regularly apply, when designing the animal welfare measure. The normal practice was determined based on the experience of veterinarians and on evidence from the Italian Agricultural Accounting Information Network. For example, the legal minimum space for calves is 1.8 m2, whereas in practice, farmers in Sardinia provided on average 3.2 m2 for each calf. The Sardinian authorities set the related animal welfare measure requirement at a minimum of 4.5 m2 per calf.90
The Commission issued guidance for Member States indicating that animal welfare payments should support operations that would not be otherwise implemented and carried out conformity audits to check the implementation of measure 14. However, the Commission did not check when approving rural development programmes or during its audits if Member States took into account the possible overlap with private schemes.
Checking if the support calculation is reasonable91
In its Statement of Assurance audits, the ECA found that Romania’s calculation of measure 14 support resulted in excessive payments to farmers. The Commission confirmed mistakes in the calculation for five sub-measures and proposed financial corrections of about €59 million, covering payments made between October 2013 and October 2016. The Commission is currently investigating a similar issue concerning possible overpayments in another Member State.
Monitoring animal welfare92
The EU Common Monitoring and Evaluation System (CMES)71 aims to demonstrate the progress of rural development policy and assess the impact, effectiveness, efficiency and relevance of rural development policy interventions, but it does not contain any specific animal welfare indicators or questions.93
The Commission does not have information on the expected or actual results and impact of rural development funds provided for animal welfare. The existing indicators do not allow the impact of €2.5 billion of rural development funding allocated between 2007 and 2020 for animal welfare payments (€1 billion for 2007-2013 and €1.5 billion for 2014-2020) to be assessed.94
Member States could define additional indicators in the framework of the CMES. The Member States we visited did not use this possibility. However, Italy (Sardinia) and Romania had defined some indicators for internal use. In Italy (Sardinia), the authorities developed an indicator for measuring the level of the number of somatic cells in the milk and used it as a proxy indicator for the welfare of sheep and goats. In Romania, the authorities used mortality rates to measure changes in welfare conditions in farms receiving support.95
The synthesis of ex-post evaluations for the previous programming period72 evaluated the “animal welfare payments” measure based on the number of farms supported. The evaluation document indicated that impact was limited, as only 1.1 % of EU farms with livestock had used the measure.
Conclusions and recommendations96
Animal welfare is an important issue for EU citizens. This is reflected in the EU Treaty and the legislation in this area. The Commission has been proactive in addressing stakeholders’ concerns and it has developed a strategy to provide a framework for its actions.97
Our audit examined the overall implementation of the strategy and progress in achieving the objectives of compliance with animal welfare legislation and optimising synergies with the Common Agricultural Policy through cross-compliance and rural development. We sought to answer the following question:
Have the Commission and the Member States actions contributed effectively to achieving the EU animal welfare objectives?98
We conclude that EU actions on animal welfare have improved compliance with animal welfare requirements and supported higher standards with a clear positive impact on animal welfare. However, certain weaknesses persist and there is scope for improving coordination with cross-compliance checks and the use of rural development support for animal welfare.99
We found that the Commission completed the latest EU strategy on animal welfare (in doing so the Commission has not reviewed the legislative framework for animal welfare). There were delays for most of the actions planned (see paragraphs 28 and 29). The strategy did not define measurable monitoring indicators, the Commission did not assess if the strategy had achieved its objectives nor determine whether there was a need for a new strategy.100
The data available at EU level is not extensive and reliable enough to convey meaningful information about levels of compliance with animal welfare legislation in areas where the Commission has identified a need for improvement (see paragraphs 30 to 33). In particular, as regards the use of the derogation for slaughter without stunning, the legal basis allows for different interpretations and practices across the Member States and there are no reporting requirements. Therefore, there is not sufficient information available to assess whether Member States have prevented the excessive use of the derogation by certain slaughterhouse operators, which was one of the issues identified by the Commission before the launch of the current animal welfare strategy (see paragraphs 43 to 45).
Recommendation 1 – Strategic framework for the Commission’s animal welfare policy
To guide its future animal welfare actions, the Commission should:
- Carry out an evaluation of the 2012-2015 animal welfare strategy to identify to what extent its objectives have been achieved and if the guidance it has issued is being applied.
Target implementation date: 2020.
- Define baseline and target indicators to measure and compare the Member States’ degree of compliance in remaining risk areas identified by the evaluation.
Target implementation date: 2021.
- Reflect on how to address the conclusions of the above evaluation (for example, through a new strategy or action plan and/or a review of animal welfare legislation) and publish the results of its assessment.
Target implementation date: 2021.
Our audit has shown that the Commission and the Member States have succeeded in addressing some animal welfare issues through a combination of guidance and enforcement actions (see paragraphs 34 to 40).102
However, progress has been slow in other areas and there are still a number of weaknesses regarding the application of the minimum standards required by the legislation, even where the legislation has been in force for up to 18 years (see paragraphs 41 and 42). Furthermore, despite some good practices, it was not clear that Member States’ animal welfare inspections were risk-based (in particular in the area of transport). The Member States visited did not make full use of information resulting from audits and complaints. The Commission has identified and acted on most of these issues, but it has not yet succeeded in fully addressing them (see paragraphs 47 to 63).
Recommendation 2 – Commission’s enforcement and guidance actions in the area of compliance
To better address risky areas and disseminate good practices, the Commission should:
- Develop an enforcement strategy to strengthen arrangements for the follow-up of DG SANTE’s recommendations, with the aim to reduce the time to trigger satisfactory actions to its recommendations issued after audits and to enforce legislative provisions, particularly those that have been in force for a long time.
Target implementation date: 2020.
- Determine, together with the Member States, how the tools available in TRACES can support the preparation of risk analyses for inspections on the transport of live animals, and disseminate guidance on the use of these tools.
Target implementation date: 2020.
Member States’ checks generally covered the relevant animal welfare requirements and we found some examples of good coordination between the authorities responsible for official animal welfare inspections and those responsible for cross-compliance inspections. However, even though the same control authority performed the official inspections and cross-compliance checks, some Member States did not ensure that information on non-compliances identified during official inspections, with a potential impact on cross-compliance requirements, could be exchanged effectively. Furthermore, there were cases where the cross-compliance penalties applied by Paying Agencies were not proportionate to the seriousness of the irregularities (see paragraphs 65 to 76).
Recommendation 3 – Improve coordination between the official inspections and cross-compliance
To strengthen the links between the cross-compliance system and animal welfare, the Commission should:
- In its conformity audits on cross-compliance, assess the completeness of Member States’ reporting of non-compliances identified during official inspections performed by the same control authority as for cross-compliance checks, for example by crosschecking between the results of official inspections and the database of beneficiaries subject to cross-compliance.
Target implementation date: 2020.
- Building on previous actions, further share best practices on cross-compliance and inform Member States of the conformity findings underlying decisions to impose financial corrections because of the lenient sanctioning systems linked to animal welfare.
Target implementation date: 2020.
Although promoting animal welfare was a rural development priority for the 2014-2020 period, we found that the specific “Animal Welfare” measure was not widely used. The measure’s cost-effectiveness was reduced because it supported farms that did not respect certain minimum standards on pig welfare, there was a risk of deadweight due to overlap with the requirements of private schemes, and the common monitoring framework lacked indicators for improvements in animal welfare. Member States rarely used the opportunity to support animal welfare through other rural development measures (see paragraphs 77 to 95).
Recommendation 4 – Using rural development support to achieve animal welfare objectives
To encourage the effective use of rural development support for animal welfare, the Commission should:
- When approving changes to the existing rural development programmes, as well as when approving the new programming documents for the rural development programming period post-2020, challenge Member States on the use of the animal welfare measure in sectors where there is evidence of widespread non-compliance (such as pig tail docking) and check the potential overlap with private schemes covering similar commitments.
Target implementation date: 2021.
- Encourage the exchange between Member States of good practices on additional, voluntary result and impact indicators for the animal welfare measure under the common monitoring and evaluation system that will be established for the programming period post-2020.
Target implementation date: 2020.
- For the programming period post-2020, provide guidance to Member States on the use of other rural development measures to support improved animal welfare standards, in order to give farmers a wider range of incentives to improve animal welfare.
Target implementation date: 2021.
This Report was adopted by Chamber I, headed by Mr Nikolaos MILIONIS, Member of the Court of Auditors, in Luxembourg at its meeting of 3 October 2018.
For the Court of Auditors
Overview of actions planned in the EU animal welfare strategy 2012-2015
|Actions planned||Due1 / planned||Completed|
|Series of enforcement actions on the protection of laying hens (Directive 1999/74/EC)||2012||2012|
|Implementing plan and enforcement actions on the grouping of sows (Directive 2008/120/EC)||2012||2012|
|Implementing plan for the slaughter regulation (Council Regulation (EC) N° 1099/2009)||2012||2012|
|Report to the European Parliament and the Council on:|
the various stunning methods for poultry1
the application of the Regulation (EC) No 1523/2007 banning the placing on the market of cat and dog fur1
the impact of genetic selection on the welfare of chickens bred and kept for meat production1
system restraining bovine animals by inversion or any unnatural position1
the possibility of introducing certain requirements regarding the protection of fish at the time of killing1
the application of Directive 2007/43/EC and its influence on the welfare of chickens bred and kept for meat production1
|Report to the Council on the implementation of Directive 98/58/EC1||2013||2016|
|Report on the impact of animal welfare international activities on the competitiveness of European livestock producers in a globalised world||2014||2018|
the welfare of farmed fish at the time of killing
the opportunity to provide consumers with the relevant information on the stunning of animals1
animal welfare education and on information activities directed at the general public and consumers
the welfare of farmed fish during transport
the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices
|EU implementing rules or guidelines on:|
the protection of animals during transport
the protection of animals at the time of killing
the protection of pigs
|Possible legislative proposal for a simplified EU legislative framework for animal welfare||2014||dropped|
1Required by the EU legislation.
Overview of information included in the farm inspection reports submitted to the Commission by the audited Member States
|Country||Year||Average control rate||Share of sites with non-compliance in the total number of sites inspected|
|Laying hens Free range||Laying hens Barn||Laying hens Enriched||Turkeys||Domestic fowl||Ducks||Geese|
|2014||5 %||7 %||8 %||11 %||14 %||13 %||8 %||11 %|
|France||2013||1 %||60 %||38 %||25 %||49 %||38 %||47 %|
|2014||1 %||61 %||46 %||32 %||42 %||32 %||44 %|
|Italy||2013||12 %||11 %||11 %||12 %||22 %||12 %|
|2014||22 %||3 %||6 %||13 %||0 %||8 %|
|2015||18 %||1 %||4 %||3 %||1 %||3 %|
|Poland||2013||5 %||16 %||14 %||8 %||2 %||14 %||12 %||11 %|
|2014||5 %||10 %||10 %||10 %||4 %||12 %||7 %||7 %|
|2015||5 %||12 %||10 %||13 %||6 %||19 %||12 %||10 %|
|2016||5 %||15 %||8 %||10 %||5 %||15 %||9 %||3 %|
|Romania||2013||74 %||0 %||30 %||22 %||0 %||25 %||0 %||0 %|
|2014||63 %||14 %||18 %||33 %||20 %||62 %||0 %|
|2015||50 %||50 %||25 %||9 %||13 %||15 %|
|Country||Year||Share of sites with non-compliance in the total number of sites inspected|
|Ratites||Pigs||Cattle (except calves)||Calves||Sheep||Goats||Fur animals||All categories of animals|
|2014||3 %||26 %||20 %||22 %||17 %||15 %||31 %||19 %|
|France||2013||50 %||58 %||41 %||33 %||46 %||56 %||54 %||44 %|
|2014||67 %||56 %||39 %||30 %||48 %||52 %||50 %||41 %|
|Italy||2013||0 %||15 %||13 %||9 %||9 %||9 %||14 %||12 %|
|2014||0 %||11 %||6 %||16 %||4 %||3 %||8 %||8 %|
|2015||11 %||7 %||4 %||5 %||3 %||3 %||0 %||4 %|
|Poland||2013||0 %||18 %||17 %||17 %||22 %||17 %|
|2014||0 %||16 %||17 %||17 %||17 %||87 %||15 %||17 %|
|2015||3 %||13 %||16 %||13 %||16 %||16 %||10 %||14 %|
|2016||6 %||14 %||15 %||12 %||16 %||14 %||7 %||13 %|
|Romania||2013||100 %||25 %||41 %||36 %||37 %||33 %|
|2014||50 %||20 %||29 %||45 %||21 %||14 %||0 %||28 %|
|2015||100 %||16 %||25 %||36 %||29 %||13 %||0 %||22 %|
Source: Reports on official animal welfare controls on farms submitted to DG SANTE.
Member States’ checks and data on slaughter without stunning
|Member State||Is there a specific procedure to check the justification for applying the derogation?||Is there information available at national level to show the extent of slaughter without stunning?|
|Germany||Yes, the competent authorities grant the derogation for slaughter without stunning based on a request from the followers of religious associations. The applicants must be based in the country and must prove that their religious precepts require the consumption of such meat.||Yes. The authorities’ estimations based on data from 2014 and 2015 show that a very low number of animals were slaughtered without stunning in Germany (180 sheep and goats, 186 poultry) and that about 24 % of sheep and goats were slaughtered for the needs of religious communities with electrical stunning methods that are not listed in the applicable EU Regulation. In practice, imports from other countries contribute to the needs of the religious communities in Germany.|
|France||Yes, the competent authorities required the slaughterhouses to keep records of commercial orders corresponding to the use of the derogation. The French authorities’ internal evaluation of the derogation for slaughter without stunning pointed out that the correspondence between commercial orders and use of the derogation was not verifiable.||There is a limited overview, based on unverified estimations from operators, which indicated that they applied this method for 14 % of cattle and 30 % of sheep slaughtered in 2015. There is no information for poultry or goats.|
|Italy||Yes, there is a similar authorisation procedure to the one applied in Romania but there is no requirement for information on the number of animals concerned.||Limited – there is only some data on the number of slaughterhouses authorised to use the derogation.|
|Poland||In Poland, slaughter without stunning was prohibited by national law from 2012 to 2014, when the Constitutional Court ruled that these provisions did not comply with the Constitution. Since 2014, the derogation provided by the EU legislation has been applied.|
|No. The competent authorities only check if the slaughter takes place in a slaughterhouse and if the animals are restrained. There is no requirement to check that the derogation is supported by the existence of commercial orders for such meat.||Limited – there are some unofficial estimates for cattle and poultry.|
|Romania||Yes, the competent authorities grant the derogation based on a request from the slaughterhouse and a certificate from the religious authority specifying the species, number of animals concerned and date(s) when the slaughter would take place.||Yes. In 2016, the authorities granted the derogation for about 6 % of beef production, 9 % of sheep meat production and 4 % of chicken meat production.|
Cross-compliance checks in the Member States visited73
|Requirement||Control rate||Non-compliance rate||Distribution of non-compliances by category of payment reduction|
|Requirement||Control rate||Non-compliance rate||Distribution of non-compliances by category of payment reduction|
|Requirement||Control rate||Non-compliance rate||Distribution of non-compliances by category of payment reduction|
|Requirement||Control rate||Non-compliance rate||Distribution of non-compliances by category of payment reduction|
NB: Data for France was not yet available at the time of the audit, due to the changes introduced in 2015 with regard to the direct payments system in France and the adaptation of the Integrated Administration and Control System to the new rules of the CAP and cross-compliance (introduced in 2015).
Source: Cross-compliance control statistics submitted by the Member States to the Commission.
Glossary and abbreviations
Broilers: Chickens kept for meat production
CAP: Common Agricultural Policy
CMES: EU Common Monitoring and Evaluation System for rural development measures
Cross-compliance checks: Checks aimed at verifying the respect of cross-compliance obligations, in accordance with Regulations (EU) No 1306/2013, 809/2014 and 640/2014.
DG AGRI: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development
DG SANTE: European Commission’s Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety
EFSA: European Food Safety Authority — European Union agency that provides independent scientific advice and communicates on existing and emerging risks associated with the food chain
Official inspections: Term used throughout the report to refer to controls and inspections performed at Member State level (e.g. by veterinary services) to verify the correct application of European Union animal welfare rules, in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 882/2004.
OIE: World Organisation for Animal Health (Office International des Épizooties) - an intergovernmental organisation with 181 Member Countries. It develops internationally recognised animal health and welfare standards.
Pig tail docking: Procedure of cutting of pig tails in order to reduce tail-biting.
RDP: Rural development programme
SMR: Statutory management requirements — form part of cross-compliance and are laid down in a number of European Union directives and regulations. They concern public health, animal and plant health, identification and registration of animals, environment and animal welfare.
TRACES: Trade Control and Expert System — Commission’s multilingual online management tool for all sanitary requirements on intra-EU trade and importation of animals, semen and embryos, food, feed and plants.
3 European Parliament resolution of 5 May 2010 on evaluation and assessment of the Animal Welfare Action Plan 2006-2010 (2009/2202(INI)) and European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on a new animal welfare strategy for 2016-2020 (2015/2957(RSP)).
4 Studies on this topic include the following: FAO, “Review of animal welfare legislation in the beef, pork, and poultry industries”, Rome, 2014; EconWelfare project, FiBL, “Overview of animal welfare standards and initiatives in selected EU and third countries”, Switzerland, 2010; European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, “Comparative analysis of EU standards in food safety, environment, animal welfare and other non-trade concerns with some selected countries”, Brussels, 2012.
5 Performed in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on official controls performed to ensure the verification of compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules (OJ L 165, 30.4.2004, p. 1). The legislation does not require a minimum control rate for animal welfare inspections.
6 Direct payments under Regulation (EU) No 1307/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing rules for direct payments to farmers under support schemes within the framework of the common agricultural policy (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 608); payments for restructuring and conversion of vineyards and green harvesting under Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 671) and area related payments and animal welfare payments under the rural development Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 487).
8 Recital 57 and Article 92 of Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy (OJ L 347, 20.12.2013, p. 549). Small farmers are however not exempt from complying with the applicable animal welfare legislation and are subject to official inspections verifying their compliance with that legislation.
11 Sources: cross-compliance control statistics for 2016 for the population subject to cross-compliance; Eurostat data for 2013 for the total number of farms with livestock and total number of farms with pigs. The coverage of pig farms varies widely between Member States, ranging from 7 % of the pig farms in Slovakia to almost 100 % of the pig farms in Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg. There is no Eurostat data on the number of farms rearing calves.
13 In the previous programming period (2007-2013), 15 Member States spent €1 billion for the animal welfare measure.
14 Animal Task Force, “Why is European animal production important today? Facts and figures”, 2017.
15 DG SANTE, “Evaluation of the EU Policy on Animal Welfare and Possible Policy Options for the Future”, Brussels, 2010.
16 https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/animalwelfare, accessed in June 2018.
17 For example: Belk, K.E., Scanga, J.A., Smith, G.C. and Grandin, T., “The Relationship Between Good Handling / Stunning and Meat Quality in Beef, Pork, and Lamb”, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 2002; DG SANTE, “Evaluation of the EU Policy on Animal Welfare and Possible Policy Options for the Future”, Brussels, 2010; European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs, “Animal Welfare in the European Union”, Brussels, 2017.
19 Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Welfare on a request from the Commission related to welfare aspects of the main systems of stunning and killing the main commercial species of animals, the EFSA Journal (2004), 45, 1-29.
20 DG SANTE, “Evaluation of the EU Policy on Animal Welfare and Possible Policy Options for the Future”, Brussels, 2010.
22 Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee on the European Union Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015 (COM(2012)6 of 15.2.2012).
23 We have reviewed audit reports from DG SANTE covering all 28 Member States. These audit reports identified weaknesses in all Member States except Finland.
25 European Parliament resolution of 26 November 2015 on a new animal welfare strategy for 2016-2020 (2015/2957(RSP)).
27 Source: Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of Council Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes (COM(2016) 558 final of 8.9.2016) and minutes of the national Contact Point meetings for animal welfare during transport.
28 Regulation (EU) 2017/625 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products (OJ L 95, 7.4.2017, p. 1).
29 COM(2016) 558 final of 8.9.2016 “Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and Council on the implementation of Council Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes”.
30 COM(2018) 181 final of 13.4.2018 “Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the application of Directive 2007/43/EC and its influence on the welfare of chickens kept for meat production, as well as the development of welfare indicators”.
37 For example, audit reports 2016-8822 - MR, 2014-7059 - MR (Belgium), 2013-6858 - MR FINAL (Bulgaria), 2017-6022 (Czech Republic), 2014-7061 - MR FINAL (Denmark), 2016-8763 – MR (Estonia), 2017-6126 (Spain), 2014-7075 - MR FINAL (Italy), 2012-6374 - MR FINAL (Romania).
38 Group housing of sows: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Greece, France, Cyprus, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia and Finland. Laying hens: Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Romania. Transport of calves: Ireland, France.
39 When relevant (e.g. for particular recommendations that were still outstanding at the date of the audit), older audit reports were also reviewed.
40 So that assessment is made of all the relevant requirements of Council Directive 98/58/EC of 20 July 1998 concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes (OJ L 221, 8.8.1998, p. 23), Council Directive 2008/120/EC of 18 December 2008 laying down minimum standards for the protection of pigs (Codified version) (OJ L 47, 18.2.2009, p. 5), Council Directive 1999/74/EC of 19 July 1999 laying down minimum standards for the protection of laying hens (OJ L 203, 3.8.1999, p. 53) and of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations (OJ L 3, 5.1.2005, p. 1). In 2012, the Commission added to its recommendation the reference to the requirements of Council Directive 2007/43/EC of 28 June 2007 laying down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production (OJ L 182, 12.7.2007, p. 19).
41 We identified this in Germany (3 recommendations), Italy (1 recommendation) and Romania (1 recommendation).
43 Halal or kosher meat. Slaughter with stunning (with methods listed in Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 or alternative methods) may be permitted by certain religious communities.
44 Recital 18 of Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009.
45 Impact assessment accompanying the document “Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council and the European Economic and Social Committee on the European Union Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015” (SEC(2012) 55 final of 19.1.2012).
47 DG SANTE, “Study on information to consumers on the stunning of animals”, 2015.
49 In Germany (North-Rhine Westphalia), the inspectors from different districts used different checklists and there was no uniform approach concerning the application of fines.
50 Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004: “Member States shall ensure that official controls are carried out regularly, on a risk basis and with appropriate frequency, so as to achieve the objectives of this Regulation.”
51 For example, a local authority in a certain Member State will be able to view information on animal transport in its area only if it is a place of departure, of destination, a point of exit/entry to the EU or if a control post is located in the area.
53 Point 5.1 in the Annex of Commission Decision 2006/677/EC of 29 September 2006 setting out the guidelines laying down criteria for the conduct of audits under Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council on official controls to verify compliance with feed and food law, animal health and animal welfare rules (OJ L 278, 10.10.2006, p. 15).
55 Article 38(5) of Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 640/2014 of 11 March 2014 supplementing Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to the integrated administration and control system and conditions for refusal or withdrawal of payments and administrative penalties applicable to direct payments, rural development support and cross compliance (OJ L 181, 20.6.2014, p. 48).
56 Competent control body establishing the non-compliance and paying agency responsible for the calculation of the payment reduction.
57 Commission Working Document on available control tools to optimise the efficiency of the cross-compliance checks (DS-2011-2), 2011.
58 Article 68, paragraph 2 of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 809/2014 of 17 July 2014 laying down rules for the application of Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to the integrated administration and control system, rural development measures and cross-compliance (OJ L 227, 31.7.2014, p. 69).
59 Articles 3 and 4 of Council Directive 2008/119/EC of 18 December 2008 laying down minimum standards for the protection of calves (Codified version) (OJ L 10, 15.1.2009, p. 7), Articles 3 and 4 of Directive 2008/120/EC and Article 4 of Directive 98/58/EC.
60 Only one formal point missing from the checklist.
61 Following its audit findings, the Commission may launch procedures whereby EU funding for the Member State concerned is reduced. These procedures are referred to as “financial corrections”.
64 Article 39 of Delegated Regulation (EU) No 640/2014 requires that the payment reduction is, as a rule, 3 % and can be reduced to 1 % or increased to 5 % based on the assessment of the importance of the non-compliance.
65 Commission audits for Estonia, Italy, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal and Slovakia reported this issue.
67 “Improving competitiveness of primary producers by better integrating them into the agri-food chain through quality schemes, adding value to agricultural products, promotion in local markets and short supply circuits, producer groups and organisations and inter-branch organisations” and “Supporting farm risk prevention and management”. Focus areas establish the link between rural development priorities, measures and monitoring indicators.
68 Point 4 of Annex I of Directive 2008/120/EC: “pigs must have permanent access to a sufficient quantity of material to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities, such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such, which does not compromise the health of the animals”.
69 Consulted during the expert panel organised for this audit.
70 “Initiative Tierwohl” in Germany, “UNICARVE” labelling scheme in Italy.
72 Synthesis of Rural Development Programmes (RDP) ex-post evaluations of period 2007-2013, evaluation study, Ecorys and IfLS, April 2018.
73 The SMRs (statutory management requirements) cover requirements and standards set out in Directive 2008/119/EC on the protection of calves (SMR 11), Directive 2008/120/EC on the protection of pigs (SMR 12) and Directive 98/58/EC on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes (SMR 13). The non-compliance rate and the distribution of non-compliances by category of payment reduction do not include cases of reoccurrence of non-compliance or intentional non-compliance.
1 As an example, Council Directive 2008/120/EC highlights in the preamble the following considerations, (6) differences which may distort conditions of competition (7) standards … to ensure rational development of production, which therefore place greater emphasis on larger scale production.
2 See Overview Report 2014-7350, section 6.
|Adoption of Audit Planning Memorandum (APM) / Start of audit||13.9.2017|
|Official sending of draft report to Commission (or other auditee)||12.7.2018|
|Adoption of the final report after the adversarial procedure||3.10.2018|
|Commission’s (or other auditee’s) official replies received in all languages||9.11.2018|
The ECA’s special reports set out the results of its audits of EU policies and programmes, or of management-related topics from specific budgetary areas. The ECA selects and designs these audit tasks to be of maximum impact by considering the risks to performance or compliance, the level of income or spending involved, forthcoming developments and political and public interest.
This performance audit was carried out by Audit Chamber I Sustainable use of natural resources, headed by ECA Member Nikolaos Milionis. The audit was led by ECA Member Janusz Wojciechowski, supported by Kinga Wiśniewska-Danek, Head of Private Office and Katarzyna Radecka-Moroz, Private Office Attaché; Colm Friel, Principal Manager; Diana Voinea, Head of Task; Paulo Oliveira and Lucia Roșca, Deputy Heads of Task; Xavier Demarche, Małgorzata Frydel, Michela Lanzutti, Joachim Otto and Maciej Szymura, Auditors. Fiona Urquhart provided linguistic support.
EUROPEAN COURT OF AUDITORS
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More information on the European Union is available on the internet (http://europa.eu).
Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2018
|ISBN 978-92-847-1150-5||ISSN 1977-5679||doi:10.2865/950259||QJ-AB-18-026-EN-N|
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