- A new campaign to drive welfare legislation for dairy cows is the first to use new a new EU initiative to propose new legislation.
- Supporting Better Dairy aims to create new legislation that will make it mandatory for farmers to achieve a certain level of welfare, similar to the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive which came into force in January.
- The campaign will be the first to use the European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI), which allows EU citizens to propose new legislation. The initiative requires 1 million signatures from across the EU, from a minimum of 7 EU member states.
- Standards of cattle welfare vary widely across the EU as they are not governed by rules such as the Laying Hens Directive, or the Pig Welfare directive to be brought into force in December.
- UK cows enjoy relatively high welfare standards, with the vast majority covered by the Red Tractor Farm Assurance Scheme. However, there are 23 million dairy cows across Europe, and all are still susceptible to conditions such as lameness, mastitis and infertility, that can be brought about by cramped conditions and poor housing.
Similar to the Pig Welfare Directive, the UK already has generally higher welfare standards than some other European countries, which may give UK dairy production a competitive advantage, provided there is a premium for maintaining high welfare standards in dairy. If higher welfare standards are introduced, the UK should be well placed to deal with these, and legislation should level the playing field and prevent UK farmers being out-priced by competitors with lower welfare standards.