«October 2009 SCIENTIFIC COORDINATOR Pierre Le Neindre, Senior research scientist, INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research) ...»
The issue of animal welfare has however been integrated into Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform via the conditionality of subsidies (which may be coupled or decoupled from the first pillar and certain subsidies from the second pillar of the CAP). Conditionality enforces compliance with certain measures (known as the minimum basis) in order to receive the full amount of the subsidies. Non-compliance with these measures means, after checks and certification, a reduction in subsidies. The sanctions vary according to whether the non-compliance is judged intentional or not, (from 1% to 20% if the non-compliance is intentional, even up to 100% in extreme cases).
Besides environmental aspects, animal identification, public health and food safety, animal health, the respect for animal well-being (animal protection section) has been included in the minimum basis since 2007. No assessment of non-compliance rates within the criteria of animal protection is available for the time being.
Finally, the European Commission presented a community action plan in 2006 setting out the activities it intended to carry out in the area of animal protection and welfare. It consisted however, of a document on Union policy which has no legal value. The efforts made in view of having the criterion of animal welfare accepted by the World Trade Organization (WTO) have been unsuccessful.
Livestock protection in French law and regulations Concerns about animal pain have been progressively incorporated into French law and the legal framework for animal protection has widened proportionally to the range of protection afforded. It now concerns animals used in research, pets, as well as livestock (methods of animal husbandry, housing, transport and slaughtering of animals).
A large number of regulatory texts have been adopted since the seventies, some stemming from community directives or from commitments contracted by the ratification of conventions, in particular those of the Council of Europe. These regulations concern husbandry practices (with specific provisions for veal calves, pigs and laying hens), transport and slaughter. Since 1974, stunning all animals before slaughter is compulsory, with special dispensation for the religious and emergency slaughter of animals. Also training for those in the trade (those who transport animals in particular) and veterinary drug administration are regulated. At the European and French levels, committees are charged with implementing regulations concerning animal welfare.
The body of community or national laws and regulations is underpinned by advancements in scientific knowledge regarding animal behaviour and their sensitivity to pain. In particular, this is the case for livestock, the laws/ regulations relying most often on regularly updated expert assessment. Changes in legislation are also the result of power struggles between movements and groups in society, as witnessed by, for example, the recognition of the 18 Expertise scientifique collective "Douleurs animales" right of animal protection societies to file a civil suit for certain offences committed against animals (Code of French Criminal Procedure, article 2-13).
The French Rural Code now has a chapter devoted to animal protection (in which article L214-1 appears, from the 1976 law already mentioned) among different chapters dealing with the keeping of animals, their transport or the fight against animal diseases. Animal protection as an objective thus appears clearly at the heart of the law on animal production.
In France, the status of animals falls mainly within the provisions of civil law, criminal law, rural law and criminal procedure law. This segmentation of legal interpretations, linked to the number of different ways of using animals, to the diversity of the animal species concerned and to the different aims at stake, does not facilitate understanding of animal status by the parties involved in a lawsuit. In the same way, the diverse occurrences of the word “pain” and its metamorphoses (suffering, maltreatment, etc.) make understanding animal pain in animal protection law more complicated, in particular regarding livestock.
1.3.4 Taking account of animal pain in the economic context In the literature pertaining to animal welfare there is also the question of determining the actual nature of consideration for animal pain. Is it a public good which must be respected in the general interest? Is it a farming externality (that is, the consequences of taking animal pain into account by the farmer have an influence on other members of society but the farmer receives no remuneration in exchange) that has to be internalized by the public authorities? Is it a private good or a psychological externality which is only contingent on the working of the market?
Depending on the authors, opinions diverge and the question remains open.
In the case of animal welfare, the regulatory route has been given priority by the European Union with the adoption of the “welfare” directives already mentioned, considering welfare, therefore, as a public good. Amongst the member states, some have only taken this route (such as Norway or Finland); in other countries like France, taking animal welfare into account on farms has given rise to some attempts to show its value in the market (voluntary quality assurance measures).
How society perceives animal pain Social demand for reducing animal pain is difficult to quantify and must be distinguished from other expectations such as respect for the environment, the economic viability of farms and industry networks, health safety standards, the organoleptic quality of the products, by players with different motivations (farmers and retailers, animal protection organizations, citizens and consumers...).
The studies available today on the economic factors involved in taking pain in animals into account are mainly Anglo-Saxon. They show that the public’s perception of animal pain compared to the human experience of pain remains uncertain and that those working with animals agree that animals do feel pain. A significant number amongst them are of the view however that animals do not feel pain as strongly as humans. On the other hand, there are no studies on producers’ willingness to change to more animal-friendly practices according to the costs involved in such changes.
A Belgian study confirms differences in perception between producers and other citizens. While all of them associate animal welfare with physical health, provision of food and water, warmth and protection, citizens who are not producers add to that list freedom of movement, which they consider unsatisfactory nowadays on farms. For the producers, although the economic interest of their farms and the positive impact that improvements in animal welfare could have on the image of their trade predominates, they are also showing rising concern over animal pain.
Expertise scientifique collective "Douleurs animales" 19 Consumer expectation Consumers’ specific request for taking pain in farm animals into consideration must be allowed to be expressed through the market. The work available on this subject concerns animal welfare rather than animal pain. Numerous surveys on the welfare of livestock reveal strong interest on the part of consumers for animal welfare with, in certain cases, positive and significant willingness to pay for produce resulting from more animal-friendly farming methods.
These studies must however be interpreted carefully as it has been shown elsewhere that there is sometimes a wide discrepancy between declaration of intent and purchasing behaviour. Besides the issue of the methodological validity of the existing surveys (and particularly the definition of animal welfare given to those participating in the survey), this gap may signify either a lack of information on the part of the consumer (which suggests a policy of adapted information and/or labelling) or a dichotomy between the citizen who wants to see him or herself as a person of certain values and the consumer who often seeks out less-expensive products, whatever the production methods. Consumers are aware of a contradiction between the idea of wanting a pleasant life for the animal and prospect of slaughtering it for consumption.
Generally, it can be observed that consumers associate animal welfare with quality in the wider sense (health safety qualities, organoleptic qualities...) of these animal products. Consumer acceptance of new production methods needs to be studied beforehand therefore, when taking animal pain into consideration. In fact, certain solutions for managing animal pain such as using biotechnology for vaccines, or the use of pharmacological products, with the risks they carry of leaving residues in the animal products, can to a large extent counteract the consumers’ expectations. The few studies which exist on this question will be dealt with in Chapter 5.
Possible tools for demonstrating the market value of taking of animal pain into account If sensitivity to animal pain only concerns consumers, taking it into account is the role of the private sector. The demand for animal welfare protection and taking animal pain explicitly into account, open opportunities to niche markets and/or for market segmentation, to satisfy interested customers. The consumer still needs to be clearly informed about the proposed product and its attributes, with, for example, suitable labelling, initiated by private parties with the help of specifications, and/or supported by the public authorities. This would have the aim of protecting consumers from the risk of fraud by guaranteeing the authenticity of the qualities claimed.
Such actions would allow interested consumers to validate animal products in the market from farms with animalfriendly practices that meet their expectations. Specific voluntary procedures for taking charge of animal pain can be implemented, or else quality assurance measures which exist already could be extended. Such quality assurance measures exist and some of them already include aspects relating to animal welfare. These aspects can be central or more often complementary to others (health safety, taste...).
It would be advisable not to add these initiatives to the multiplicity of existing measures. A rationalization of those measures and a clear indication of the methods for taking animal pain into account in livestock, and by extension the levels of animal welfare in farms, would have the advantage of providing information efficiently to consumers.
The relevant criteria for such labelling still remain to be defined. The role of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), a competent organization on this issue, could be important on this point.
In parallel, large supermarket chains today appear to be a key factor for a market solution. They have already taken up some consumer concerns in order to demonstrate the value of the voluntary measures carried out in the food sector. These primarily target food safety. Other concerns such as working conditions, the environment or animal welfare remain secondary, as their value is less able to be recovered in the market, even if this hierarchy in concerns varies from country to country. From their market power and their extensive supply chain, often crossing national boundaries, large supermarket chains could play an important role in encouraging farmers to change, by assuring them of remuneration for these new improvements in their farming practices. Thus, in the United Kingdom where a tightening of regulations had forced veal calf production to relocate, the large supermarket chains took the initiative of organizing a joint effort between producers, public authorities, veterinary surgeons and animal protection activists to elaborate improved veal welfare standards, thus stimulating veal consumption by British consumers. Moreover, some multinational catering companies have forced their suppliers to adhere to strict quality standards on the subject of animal welfare, without stating the motivation (ethical, marketing...). These measures show that a precise demand expressed by consumers or citizens can, through the market and the power of large multinational companies, cause animal pain to be taken into account on a large scale.
20 Expertise scientifique collective "Douleurs animales" The regulatory route If animal pain is considered a public good, recognized by all, consumers and citizens alike, it falls to the State to have this dimension recognized by adopting the appropriate regulations. Tools such as conditionality, which, since 2003, links payment of subsidies to farmers who fulfil environmental requirements or to matters of animal welfare, can then be used and adapted. The new regulations requiring farmers to take responsibility for and deal with animal pain would then be integrated into the minimum basis for the payment of subsidies.
Solutions for reducing animal pain on farms could, depending on the solutions chosen, cause over-expenditure.
Such over-expenditure due to changes in farming practices puts the industry in a difficult position, running the risk of having to relocate production without any benefit to animal welfare. As a case in point, there is the example of the adoption of regulatory measures on the welfare of veal calves in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the 1990s. This regulation paradoxically resulted in a decline in animal welfare, since many producers relocated their production out of the United Kingdom. As this involved the transport of live animals there was an implied deterioration in their well-being.
The OIE is therefore advocating that accompanying measures be taken in addition to taking animal pain into account on farms (such as relevant labelling or relevant information for consumers) so as to guarantee a fair return to producers on their products on the national or international market and to preserve the economic viability of the industry and its competitiveness on international markets.
Voluntary measures taken by the farmers and remunerated by the public authorities can also be developed.
Contracts negotiated with the public authorities (in the framework of the second pillar of the CAP: with measures concerning agricultural competitiveness – axe 1 and/or Agri-Environmental Measures – AEM), for example, include taking pain in farm animals into account. The creation of specific AEMs or adding to those available today in France on aspects of taking charge of animal pain could be considered.