Thursday, 28 February 2008

EU TFEU: Animal welfare

Animal health and welfare have a direct bearing on producers and are important for consumers, but these issues also agitate campaigners for radical change. At the same time, religious beliefs or deeply rooted national or regional customs could lead to massive protests, if the European Union tried forceful unification regardless of existing sensitivities.

This means that the protection and welfare of animals is going to remain a contested area, with clashing views on how intrusive EU legislation shall become in general, and the scope for member state exceptions in sensitive questions.

The Treaty of Lisbon enhances the visibility of animal welfare and it widens the scope of protective measures to new policy fields, but the principle of subsidiarity is clearly stated to give the member states room to decide sensitive issues.

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In the Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) the intergovernmental conference (IGC 2007) decided to insert a provision on the protection and welfare of animals into the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC), renamed the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). See OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/48:

21) An Article 6b shall be inserted, with the wording of the enacting terms of the Protocol on the protection and welfare of animals; the word ‘fisheries’ shall be inserted after ‘agriculture’, the words ‘and research’ shall be replaced by ‘research and technological development and space’, and the words ‘, since animals are sentient beings,’ shall be inserted after ‘Member States shall’.

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Naturally, we all realise that the IGC 2007 refers to a protocol annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam, and that it can be found in the latest consolidated version of the TEU and the TEC (OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/314):

Protocol (No 33)
on protection and welfare of animals (1997)

THE HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES,

DESIRING to ensure improved protection and respect for the welfare of animals as sentient beings;

HAVE AGREED UPON the following provision which shall be annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community,

In formulating and implementing the Community's agriculture, transport, internal market and research policies, the Community and the Member States shall pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.

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Now for some DIY consolidation of the new provision, given the IGC’s ‘modus operandi’: to enhance the welfare of animals while subjecting humans to unnecessary cruelty.

The provision, in Part One Principles, Title II Provisions having general application, which could well have been written in a comprehensible way by the IGC 2007, should look like this:

Article 6b TFEU (ToL), after renumbering Article 13 TFEU

In formulating and implementing the Union's agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.

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The European Convention proposed no corresponding Article in its draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (OJ 18.7.2003 C 169/1).

The Convention proposed texts for a number of politically interesting protocols, but left it to the coming IGC to sort out and to update the bulk of protocols and declarations annexed to the treaties in force

Without looking deeper into the Convention proceedings, it looks as if the Protocol on protection and welfare of animals may have been intended to live on annexed to the Constitution to be.

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In Part III The policies and functioning of the Union, Title I Provisions of general application, the IGC 2004 agreed to insert a new provision (OJ 16.12.2004 C 310/55-56):

Article III-121 Constitution

In formulating and implementing the Union's agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the requirements of animal welfare, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.

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As far as I see, there are no other differences between the Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty than that the Constitution’s ‘requirements of animal welfare’ slipped back to ‘welfare requirements of animals’ in the Reform Treaty provision.

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Comments by your glossator:

Although a protocol is legally binding, given a provision having general application, animal welfare gains visibility in the Treaty of Lisbon, making it easier to raise concerns when actions in certain policy areas are contemplated or debated.

The Lisbon Treaty broadens the scope of the provision by adding fisheries, research and technological development and space policies to the policy areas mentioned in Protocol 33.

On the other hand, the provision continues to leave ample scope for exceptions based on respect for ‘the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage’.

Depending on national sensitivities, religious slaughter practices, bullfighting, as well as hunting and other customs are given leeway until, if ever, public opinion and politicians are ready for reform.

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For a first look at what the European Community has done in the field of animal welfare, you can access the different web pages under the icon Animal Welfare, offered by DG Health and Consumer Protection, starting with, for instance:

http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/actionplan/actionplan_en.htm

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Perhaps this was enough as an introduction for readers as sentient beings.


Ralf Grahn