Animal welfare: a growing concern

According to the World Organization for Animal Health, animal welfare is based on five principles :

  • not suffer from hunger, thirst and malnutrition;
  • not suffer from physical and thermal stress;
  • being free from pain, injury and illness;
  • they have the possibility to express the normal behaviors of their species;
  • be protected from fear and anguish.

France has more livestock than there are inhabitants, ie around 50 million laying hens (according to association L214) and 17.8 million head of cattle. These animals, integrated into industrialized production chains, ask about food consumption patterns and how to consider other species.

In addition to the issue of slaughterhouses, the raising of chickens in batteries, rabbits in cages, but also the treatment inflicted on pigs (castration of live piglets, cutting of ponytails) occupy the media scene.

The slaughterhouse issue

The publication by the association L214, in 2016, of videos showing the mistreatment of animals in slaughterhouses shocked public opinion. These images help reinforce society’s concern for the welfare of farm animals, including during transport or at the time of slaughter.

A commission of inquiry into the conditions of slaughter in French slaughterhouses is created in the National Assembly. His story shows that the suffering of animals is not sufficiently taken into account. Based on the report’s proposals, the National Assembly voted in 2017 on a bill that would provide for the mandatory installation of cameras in all slaughterhouses. However, the text was not approved.

The Law on Agriculture and Food (known as the “Lei Egalim”), enacted on October 30, 2018, introduces several measures to combat animal abuse, including the installation of video surveillance in slaughterhousesbut “on an experimental basis and on a voluntary basis”. Article 71 provides for the experimentation of a “video control device for bleeding and killing stations” in voluntary slaughterhouses for a period of two years.

Operators must also appoint an animal protection officer at each slaughterhouse (Article 70) to ensure that animal welfare procedures are correctly implemented. This employee will benefit from the protection of the whistleblower status, defined in law of December 9, 2016.

The Egalim Law extends the offense of ill-treatment to slaughterhouses and transport of live animals (Article 67) and doubles the penalties incurred, ranging from six months to one year in prison, accompanied by a fine of 15,000 euros.

In addition, the Minister of Agriculture and Food launched, in July 2021, a slaughterhouse plan which aims:

  • support the investments foreseen by the France Relance plan to modernize slaughterhouses and improve animal welfare;
  • intensify controls, notably through the creation of the National Slaughterhouse Inspection Force, which can be deployed at any time throughout France;
  • increase the feathers.

from 1er January 2022:

  • The castration of piglets without anesthesia it is prohibited on French farms;
  • the appointment of a referring to “animal welfare” is mandatory on all farms. For swine and poultry farms, the referee must undergo training; this remains optional in the other sectors.

The decree of February 5, 2022 prohibits the killing by crushing or gassing of male chicks. In France, 50 million puppies were slaughtered each year shortly after birth, before this ban took effect. All broiler hatcheries have until December 31, 2022 to equip themselves with machines to detect the sex of chicks in the egg, before hatching, thanks to state funding.

Near the end of cage-raising chickens?

France remains Europe’s top egg producing country with 15.7 billion eggs laid in 2020, up 4.9% from 2019. It supplies almost 14% of European egg production. , followed by Germany (13%) and Spain (13%).

Since February 2019, the EGalim law prohibits the production of any new building and the refurbishment of any building for the rearing of laying hens in cages (article 68). Emmanuel Macron’s Campaign Promise stop producing eggs from battery farming by 2022 was reaffirmed by the Minister of Agriculture and Food. However, this commitment does not apply to processed egg products.

Seized on this matter by the international NGO Compassion in World Agriculture (CIWF), which defends farm animals, the Council of State ordered the government, in May 2021, to issue an enforcement decree. Therefore, the Decree of December 14, 2021 authorizes work to be carried out on laying hens in cages if the number of hens does not increase. The CIWF association sees this text as a betrayal of the spirit of the EGalim law.

For their part, the large agri-food groups are increasing the number of eggs from free-range hens. At the end of 2020, free-range or free-range eggs accounted for two-thirds of eggs sold in supermarkets (compared to 59% in 2019). The remaining 34% are standard caged eggs. The consumption of free-range chicken eggs has increased in a year in 125.9%, organic 16.9% and outdoors 15.6%. On the other hand, cage breeding fell by 6.7%.

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