21 July 2022
Eurogroup for Animals welcomes the European Commission’s proposal on the revision of the geographical indications scheme for agricultural products, which identified that consumer concerns about animal welfare and sustainability are not adequately protected at present.
In March, the European Commission adopted a legislative proposal on revising the EU geographical indications (GIs) scheme and quality schemes for agricultural products. This followed a commitment in the Farm to Fork strategy to revise the framework to improve its contribution to sustainable production and to strengthen the position of farmers and producers.
Eurogroup for Animals provided feedback on the proposed revision during a recent public consultation, in which we welcomed the proposal’s identification of the lack of sustainability and animal welfare considerations in the existing framework. This is an important recognition, as the current GI scheme’s exclusion of animal welfare standards means it does not cohere with the EU’s animal welfare or sustainability ambitions.
The proposal aims to lay down requirements on animal welfare and environmental concerns in light of the growing integration of these issues in GI value chains, validating those producers who have already integrated sustainability actions into their product specifications. As the GI system has been promoted globally through EU trade policy, this could also lead to GI producers around the world incorporating animal welfare dimensions.
Increased attention to animal welfare can also help to protect the quality of GI products. Although GIs are commonly viewed as high quality by consumers, many producers do not even respect the EU minimum animal welfare standards.
Indeed, investigations into GI products have uncovered illegal practices, such as brutal violence on farms breeding pigs for Parma Ham (Essere Animali, 2018 investigation), cows farmed to produce Parmigiano Reggiano unable to graze on pasture (Compassion in World Farming, 2017 investigation), and dead calves and serious hygienic/sanitary neglect on farms producing Grana Padano (Essere Animali, 2021 investigation).
Going forward, the references to animal welfare in the Commission proposal must remain. This includes a mention in the introduction and in the preamble, as well as the statement in Article 12 that producer groups can choose to adhere to sustainability undertakings higher than EU requirements. Crucially, the delegated acts that will have to be adopted to define the sustainability standards must include animal welfare requirements based on appropriate animal welfare schemes.
At a minimum, this should include enriched indoor conditions, no cages or restrictions, access to fresh air, lower than standard stocking densities, and an end to mutilations and forced early weaning. Where GIs do adopt animal welfare criteria, pressure must be applied to ensure that they are respected, and assistance should be provided to farmers to support this transition.