Wednesday, 12 May 2021 10:59

French Senate to finally start discussing animal welfare-friendly farming


The economic affairs committee in the French Senate is due to consider a report on the proposed law for ethical, socially just and animal welfare-friendly farming on Wednesday (12 May) following recent criticism over its alleged inaction on animal welfare. EURACTIV France reports.

Although the French civil code has recognised animals as sentient living beings since 2015, animal welfare protection has not evolved any further as a result, according to a bill tabled last month by Green Senator Esther Benbassa. The Senate’s economic affairs committee will examine a report by Senator Marie-Christine Chauvin (LR) on this topic on Wednesday (12 May).

More than a billion animals are slaughtered in France each year, according to the senators behind the bill for ethical, socially fair and animal welfare-friendly livestock farming. 80% of these animals come from intensive livestock farms – in other words, from an agri-food industry that does not respect farmers, animals or consumers, according to the text’s authors.

The report condemns a model of “factory farms” with “perfectly intolerable” breeding and slaughter practices. Industrial farming is said to be responsible for “extreme behavioural disorders” in animals and for substandard meat quality.

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Towards an animal welfare-conscious agriculture

Supporting farmers in the transition to ethical breeding and slaughter is also crucial, according to the bill’s authors.

We want to “promote a rural farming model that favours local food and respects nature,” agriculture that “cares about animal welfare but also about its farmers”, as well as a “model that favours short circuits [and] subsidises local slaughter”, they said. This “quality agriculture” would also be marked by greater transparency for consumers and “greater respect for the natural cycles of the animal”, according to the senators.

The bill proposed by the Greens plans to make it compulsory, as of 2025, to “progressively” set up outdoor access systems for farm animals as well as maximum density thresholds.

The authors would also like to limit the duration of animal transport in France to eight hours – a period that could be extended to twelve hours in the event of prior authorisation by a veterinarian. Another measure aimed at “putting an end to practices that cause animal suffering” is a ban, from 2022, on “the elimination […] of live male chicks and female ducklings” – except in the event of an epizootic.

The senators also called for the creation of a “transition support fund” to support farmers move towards more ethical breeding systems that respect animal welfare.

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Senate criticised for animal abuse, whistleblowing

However, the road to achieving these ambitions remains a long one.

tThe Senate was also criticised last week for still not having a bill aimed at combating animal abuse on its agenda after the lower house, the National Assembly, adopted it at the end of January.

A Senate representative contacted by EURACTIV said that the Senate proposal “partially overlaps” with the Assembly’s, meaning it would not be included on the Senate’s agenda “at this stage”.

However, the upper house has also been criticised for adopting an amendment to the so-called “Global Security Law” in March, aimed at increasing the penalties for “illegal intrusions” into farms, which now be punishable by a €45,000 fine and a three-year prison sentence.

While Republican Senator Guillaume Chevrolier (LR), quoted by France Bleu, said that such an amendment should protect farmers from intrusions and malicious acts, it would also risk criminalising whistleblowers, said animal rights group L214, which referred to the results of its investigation it published on 5 May, revealing the shocking conditions in a sow slaughterhouse in Brittany.

In an article published by Le Monde on Tuesday (11 May), academics also denounced the amendment, saying that whistleblowers are acting in the “public interest” when revealing animal abuse and the “dysfunctions” of certain farms, and should therefore be protected.

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