Animals are sentient beings. Not only are most of us aware of this, it is also a principle that was enshrined in the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997; one of the essential steps taken along the European Union’s path towards greater respect for animal welfare.
Nonetheless, 15 years after the treaty came into force, millions of animals being farmed to provide us with milk, cheese, meat and eggs are still not being respected as sentient beings, let alone having their rights recognized. Their welfare is being denied by an industrial production and consumption system that is harming the environment, our health and the most delicate economies: those of small-scale farmers.
On February 12, Slow Food participated in a conference held by the European Commission to assess what has been achieved in terms of their 2012-2015 strategy and identify the challenges still to be faced. Since 2012, the EU has trained over 2,000 veterinarians in over 30 countries on the issue of animal welfare, banned the use of conventional cages for egg-laying hens, established that pregnant sows must be able to move freely, ended animal testing for cosmetics and pushed through improvements in animal transport. The EU is currently evaluating the development of a new legal framework.
However, the situation remains critical: laws alone are not enough. Laws are only effective if they are accompanied by a change in culture and behavior, in consumers, farmers, restaurants and schools. Currently we have two extremes: on the one hand many don’t question how chicken can cost less than bread, while on the other vegetarianism or veganism are given as the only possible solution. Between unsustainable indifference and the impractical elimination of animal protein from the world’s diet, we need to identify viable and respectful food choices.