World Animal Day in Flanders: Millions of dead animals and too strict animal welfare laws
Today is World Animal Day, the day when extra attention is paid to animal welfare. Although the day clearly also leaves room for different interpretations. While the slaughterhouse sector and the professional federation of animal breeders are going to the Constitutional Court to plead for less stringent animal welfare laws, Groen demands stricter rules to ensure the welfare of farm animals.
According to Groen, millions of animals die every year in livestock farms in Flanders before they even reach the slaughterhouse. Flemish MP Meyrem Almaci points the finger at the system of intensive livestock farming. According to her, that system is "completely derailed". Almaci also points to the high costs. For instance, collecting carcasses costs the Flemish more than 7 million euro a year.
Groen has calculated that in Flemish livestock farming, more than 3 million animals die every year, even before they are taken to the slaughterhouse. Where does the party get that figure? According to Groen, 550,000 pigs, 110,000 cattle and 35,000 sheep and goats were collected last year. In addition, there were 55,000 'tonnes' of dead poultry, whereby there can be 50 to 200 kilograms in a tonne. Using a weight of 2 kilograms per chicken, Groen's calculation comes to 2.7 million poultry animals.
According to Meyrem Almaci, the mortality rate among animals is high, with 6 percent in chickens and 17 percent in piglets, for example.
"The situation has become so skewed that insane mortality rates are considered normal even before slaughter," Almaci said. "This goes against our belief that every animal should be allowed to grow up and live in animal-friendly conditions."
The high mortality rate also costs Flanders "a handful of money", Almaci said. For example, 7.4 million euro goes into collecting carcasses every year.
Almaci said the figures show that "industrial livestock farming is not sustainable" and that Jambon's government must dare to reform the current agricultural model. Groen noted that he has already made proposals to that effect.
"It is high time that the Jambon government addresses these abuses and ensures an improvement in the welfare of all animals in Flanders," Almaci concluded.
Meanwhile, the slaughterhouse sector and the professional federation of animal breeders are going to the Constitutional Court to challenge the decree that provides for stricter penalties for people who neglect or mistreat animals. This was reported by Flemish Minister for Animal Welfare Ben Weyts (N-VA) on Tuesday.
"It is not the first time that we have had to take the fight for more animal welfare all the way to the Constitutional Court. Again, we will defend our policy with vigour," Weyts argued.
According to the Belgian Meat Federation (FEBEV), the Association of Industrial Poultry Slaughterhouses (VIP), the Professional Association for the Belgian Veal Sector (BVK) and the professional federation of animal breeders Anizoo, the decree would give the judges too much leeway. Moreover, the stricter rules would put Flanders at a competitive disadvantage in the European market and violate freedom of expression because Flanders also provides severe penalties for sellers who engage in misleading advertising, for example by using pictures of other animals.
"The stricter penalties for animal torturers have enormous support: they were unanimously approved in the Flemish Parliament. This is a necessary and legitimate decree," Weyts said. "In my view, the slaughterhouses and animal breeders are fighting a rearguard action. We will therefore fully argue our case before the Constitutional Court."
The Flemish Parliament approved a decree in February that provides for stricter penalties for citizens and companies that mistreat or neglect animals. Among other things, the decree stipulates that animal torturers can face up to five years in prison, or even ten years in case of recidivism. With the decree, judges also have the option of closing down businesses for a longer period of time or even forever.
© BELGA PHOTO BERNARD GILLET