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Brussels, 7 May 2007

Commissioner Kyprianou welcomes Council agreement on animal welfare rules for broilers

Markos Kyprianou, European Commissioner for Health, has welcomed the Council's political agreement today on new rules to improve the welfare of chickens kept for meat production (broilers). The Directive aims to reduce the overcrowding of chickens, by setting a maximum stocking density of 33kg/m2, or 39kg/m2 if stricter welfare standards are met. The new legislation also lays down a number of other conditions to ensure better animal welfare, such as lighting, litter, feeding, and ventilation requirements. The Directive also provides for the Commission to possibly introduce further measures in the future, based on the scientific data and practical evidence collected by the Member States. The Council also adopted today conclusions on animal welfare labelling and the Commission will now carefully study this issue and report on the various options.

Commissioner Kyprianou said: "EU consumers have repeatedly expressed concern at the welfare problems that can arise through intensive chicken farming. The Directive agreed today brings forward for the first time important rules for the animal welfare of broilers. While today's political agreement modifies our original proposal in certain respects, it is still a great step forward to improve the conditions under which broilers are kept. Not only will this result in better animal welfare across Europe, but it should also contribute to improving the health of the birds and the quality of their meat. With the goal of obtaining the highest possible welfare levels for broilers, the Commission has committed to continuing its work on this issue and will report back on any further provisions that could improve the welfare of these birds across Europe."

More space per chicken

Under the proposal agreed by Council today, a maximum stocking density of 33kg live animals per square meter should be set. This can rise to 39kg/m2 if extra welfare measures are taken, for example the installation of ventilation systems that keep the ammonia, CO2 temperature and humidity levels within strict parameters. It was also agreed today that if exceptionally high welfare standards are met over a continual period, the stocking density could be increased by 3 kg/m2. This is conditional on the application of lower mortality rates and guides to good management practice. Up to now, there have been no rules on the space that must be allocated to broilers, so this provision will have a significant impact on the wellbeing of intensively reared chickens.

Better conditions

The Directive also details new strict standards that must be applied in the housing of the broilers. For example, lighting must include minimum periods of darkness to allow the chickens to rest, fresh litter must be permanently available and proper ventilation must be in place. Any chickens that are seriously injured must be immediately treated or culled in a humane manner.

Stricter requirements for operators

As the welfare of animals relies largely on the people who are handling them, the Directive sets out training and certification requirements for all intensively reared chicken keepers. All chickens must be inspected at least twice a day, paying close attention for any animal health or welfare problems that may arise. Moreover, detailed records must be kept on matters that are relevant for the health and the welfare of the animals, such as the temperature and humidity in the holdings, medical treatments administered and mortality rates.

Continuing the work

The Directive gives the Commission a mandate to look into further welfare provisions for broiler chickens in the future. Welfare data from slaughterhouses in Member States will be collected EU wide. On the basis of this data, the Commission will determine whether additional measures would be beneficial. Moreover, in order to provide an incentive to both EU and third country producers to strive for the highest possible welfare levels and to allow operators who meet high standards to benefit from the competitive advantage this offers, the Directive invites the Commission to prepare a report on the possible introduction of specific welfare labelling for chicken meat. The Commission will consider integrating this task into a broader project, agreed within the Council conclusions on animal welfare labelling today.

Next steps

Once adopted, the Directive will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal, and must be implemented by all Member States by June 2010 at the latest.

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