Welfare Campaign for Dairy Cattle Launched

EU - A new campaign has been launched this week in Europe demanding higher welfare conditions for dairy cattle, writes Chris Harris.
calendar icon 25 June 2012
clock icon 2 minute read

Supporting Better Dairy has the backing of high powered pressure groups Compassion in World Farming and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

It is also backed by the ice cream company Ben and Jerry's and has as a patron, the actress Joanna Lumley, who famously took on the British government demanding greater rights for gurkha soldiers, who had served in the British army.

The animal welfare campaigners are following the moves that have been seen in the pig industry to get legislation to ban sow stalls across Europe and in the poultry industry to ban un-enriched cages for laying hens, to improve welfare conditions for dairy cows.

The campaigners, who have launched "Supporting Better Dairy", are concerned that welfare standards vary across the European Union.

However, the campaign is to use new EU legislation, the European Citizens' Initiative to help frame new legislation for improving standards.

The European Citizens' Initiative was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. It allows one million EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies, by calling on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal.

The Regulation governing European Citizens' Initiatives started to apply on 1 April 2012.

Before registering an initiative the Commission must verify that it meets certain minimal legal criteria - that it is not manifestly abusive, frivolous, vexatious, contrary to European values or outside the scope of the Commission's powers.

The Supporting Better Dairy campaign is seeking the one million signatories to the petition that will empower it to frame legislation to take before the Commission to change welfare regulations affecting 23 million dairy cattle in the EU.

While the use of the initiative ostensibly will allow any new regulations to meet the wishes of the consumers, farmers and processors in the industry as well as achieving higher welfare conditions, it also has the potential to be highjacked by animal rights activists and extremists.

Recently, during the World Meat Congress in Paris, former US senator Charlie Stenholm warned of the "unintended consequences of changes".

He warned through legislators bowing down to welfare campaigns that are not supported with sufficient facts and knowledge but purely emotion and well-meaning, animal welfare conditions can in fact be made worse and industries can be destroyed.

While the present campaign Supporting Better Dairy has strong backers and good aims, it needs to look over its shoulder to ward off the "unintended consequences of changes".

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