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French Minister of Agriculture Stéphane Le Foll in April launched an ambitious and comprehensive strategy for improving animal welfare in France, from farms to pets.

Among other things, the intensification of animal productions, territorial changes, and the evolution of scientific knowledge explain why citizens are increasingly concerned that animal welfare be better taken into account. Beyond scientific and social aspects, animal sensitivity includes important ethical dimensions. In this context, it appeared necessary that France provide itself with several years of an ambitious national strategy for animal welfare and a more sustainable agriculture.

Through this first large-scale ministerial strategy, the Ministry of Agriculture has the ambition of mobilizing all concerned actors around national work priorities on this subject for the next five years. The goal? Placing animal welfare at the heart of sustainable agricultural activities.

The animal welfare plan is built around five large axes, “Sharing knowledge and promoting innovation,” “Empowering actors at all levels,” “Pursuing an evolution of practices toward productions that are respectful of animals,” “Preventing and reacting to animal mistreatment,” and “Informing everyone of advances and results from the action plan.”

© Min.Agri.Fr

© Min.Agri.Fr

Here are some examples of actions from each of the axes.

Sharing knowledge and promoting innovation

The axis involves three main proposals. The first component is the creation of a national baseline center for animal welfare. This national center will notably intervene in coordinating work on research and providing technical expertise.

The plan also encourages innovation by providing a process of identifying actors who have found alternative animal welfare practices and quickly diffusing the ones that work on a national scale.

Empowering actors at all levels

This objective is aimed as much at farmers with daily contact with animals as it is at veterinarians who provide regular care for them, livestock technicians, slaughterhouse workers, transporters and any other actor who works with animals.

A major component of this axis involves education of actors at several different levels in the field of agriculture. Farmers will be provided with opportunities to learn best practices and animal welfare will be given a more important place in national veterinary schools.

Additionally, sharing positive experiences in animal welfare among farmers will be facilitated; animal protection organizations will be included in an open and respectful dialogue among all actors in the field, and the expertise and tools made available to animal welfare inspectors will be reinforced.

©Pascal Xicluna/Min.Agri.Fr

©Pascal Xicluna/Min.Agri.Fr

Pursuing an evolution of practices toward productions that are respectful of animals

During each step of raising animals for agricultural purposes, an accent will be placed on finding alternatives to practices that are harmful to animal welfare. Better living conditions for animals should be pursued in order to better satisfy the behavioral needs of animals, in particular those that are raised indoors.

More reflection should also take place to limit the suffering of animals that lack economic value, tackling the question of putting down certain categories of animals that aren’t used for agricultural purposes.

Preventing and reacting to animal mistreatment

Among the concerns of public opinion about animals is the question of mistreatment, whether intentional or through lack of care. This plan calls for an organized and collective response to such cases and to also take into account the dimension of human suffering that often happens simultaneously.

A better education will be provided to animal inspection services to respond to practical, legal and technical aspects of animal mistreatment in order to better help agents perform their work in the field.
At the local level, reactive measures should be put in place to detect cases of animal mistreatment as quickly as possible and to lay out the responsibilities of actors in case of emergency. This component will obviously include animal protection organizations but also veterinarians, agricultural associations, and the French authorities that are likely to be able to better identify productions in difficulty and to give them logistical aid in preventing mistreatment.

This plan notably includes support from the Ministry of Justice by sensitizing prosecutors of the importance of pursuing cases of animal mistreatment where necessary.

Informing everyone of advances and results from the action plan

This last part of the plan involves a better communication strategy between actors and with the general public. The goal is not just to inform the public of cases of animal mistreatment, but also to communicate what is already being done by farmers to prevent mistreatment and to communicate the reality of what goes on in the field. The importance of agents of the Ministry of Agriculture will also be promoted by highlighting the important role they plan in animal welfare and by sharing the global results of their actions.