The European Commission has adopted a four-year strategy, to be implemented through 2015, that aims to further improve the welfare of animals in the European Union.

The Commission has identified a lack of enforcement of EU legislation by Member States in a number of areas as one of the major issues adversely affecting animal welfare in the EU. Another brake on full and even implementation, according to the Commission, is that the market does not provide sufficient economic incentives for compliance.

“The recent coming into force of the laying hens legislation has shown that problems persist in animal welfare in several Member States," said EU Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli. "Some efforts are being made, but many issues need to be tackled in a different way in order to achieve more sustainable results. The new strategy will permit appropriate flexibility in allowing operators to attain the necessary welfare standards by different routes. Optimizing policy coherence and market transparency in a comprehensive animal welfare legislative framework will minimize real or perceived tensions between welfare and economics. Animal welfare measures need to be highly cost-effective, economically and in welfare terms." 

To address these issues and concerns, the strategy provides for a two-pronged approach: a proposal for a comprehensive animal welfare law and a reinforcement of current actions. The legislation to be proposed is expected to promote an innovative approach focusing on actual welfare outcomes instead of mechanistic inputs, and to increase the focus on the education and professional standards of all parties concerned.

The second element proposed is a reinforcement and the optimization of current Commission actions: enhancing tools to strengthen Member States compliance with the legal requirements; boosting the already existing international co-operation on animal welfare issues; providing consumers with better information; and performing studies where animal welfare appears to encourage the most problems.