There is a high awareness of animal welfare in the EU, but are consumers prepared to pay a higher price for "animal friendly products"? This was one of the topics discussed in a hearing organised by the Parliament's Agriculture committee on the EU action plan for animal welfare 2006-2010.
The new Action Plan aims to ensure that animal welfare is addressed in the most effective manner possible. In all EU sectors and through EU relations with third countries and according to the Protocol on Protection and Welfare of Animals of the Amsterdam Treaty, which recognises that animals are sentient beings.
Speakers agreed that animal welfare is a European value, strongly linked to other policy areas. The EU already has high standards, but "a lot more can be done", said German Christian Democrat Elisabeth Jeggle who is drawing up a report on the action plan.
A Eurobarometer survey of 24,708 Europeans last year showed that in 15 of the 25 Member States, a majority of respondents thinks that not enough importance is given to the welfare of animals in the agricultural policy of their own countries. The survey shows a distinct perception of welfare and protection for each species of farmed animal. The conditions of laying hens being judged to be poorer than those of pigs and cows.