Over 145,000 EU citizens and more than 155 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from all political groups have joined an EU-wide campaign calling for animal welfare to be prioritised, particularly by establishing a Commission directorate-general and a Commissioner for the issue.

Specifically, the MEPs want the Commissioner to be given the responsibility for Health, Food Safety and Animal Welfare, which would greatly support both legislation and proper enforcement.

This move was welcomed enthusiastically Alison Bezzina, Malta’s Commissioner for Animal Welfare, who expressed her full support to the proposal. While appreciating that people have long had a lot of empathy for domestic animals such as dogs, cats and horses, Bezzina noted that recent increases in awareness about factory farming and other animal functions have drastically raised public concern across the EU.

Malta’s Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina.Malta’s Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina.

“We can see this from all the surveys and research that is carried out by the EU itself and also from independent studies,” she said. “Apart from increased empathy for animals, people are realising that animal welfare is an important part of sustainability. It has now become common knowledge that when the welfare of an animal is poor, there is an increased chance of disease and that therefore improving welfare generally improves health and reduces disease,” Bezzina explained.

The proposal would also entail the creation of an animal welfare directorate.

“This would help create accountability and get things done after years of apathy,” Bezzina added, stressing that the well-being of animals is directly linked to that of humans too. “In a few years, our children will read and hear how animals used to be treated, how humans exploited them for food and other products, and they will be shocked and ashamed with the atrocities that they learn,” she said.

In a parliamentary question submitted recently on the matter, a number of MEPs highlighted that responses to Eurobarometer surveys have shown European citizens care about animals. They would also like to see their welfare improved through clear legislation, effective policies and the commitment of adequate resources.

MEPs said that despite Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union recognises animals as sentient beings, the approach of the EU institutions on the matter has been inconsistent, which has contributed to the problem of poor enforcement on various fronts.

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-media house initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us