The Protocol on Animal Welfare annexed to the EC Treaty in 1999 obliges the European Institutions to fully consider animal welfare in the drafting and implementation of Community legislation. The reform of the common agricultural policies (CAP) foreseen by Agenda 2000 follows the trend of more market oriented measures decoupling subsidies from production. Farming is seen as fundamental to other key societal goals such as food safety and quality, animal welfare, rural development, sustainability etc.
Over the years, recommendations of the Council of Europe and EU Directives specifically concerning farm animal welfare were developed and these are becoming increasingly stringent. European regulations relevant for poultry include Directives on the housing of laying hens, transport and slaughter.
Recently, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) identified animal welfare as a high priority for the coming years. Actions include the development of internationally applicable guiding principles and standards for good animal welfare practice.
Animal welfare is an issue of increasing significance for European consumers and citizens. Since the consumer is the end-user, his or her requirements form the bottom-line for any effort intended to achieve the ultimate fine-tuning necessary to assure societal and economic sustainability of agri- and food-chains (‘from farn to fork’). This means that efforts to inform the consumers and to address their concerns about animal welfare need to be at the forefront of policy and industry agendas.