The European Union (EU) has resolved to encourage greater animal welfare through a new EU-wide labeling scheme. Depending on how this scheme is ultimately implemented in Europe, it has the potential to adversely affect international trade in agricultural and food products — in particular, agricultural and food exports to the EU — and to violate the EU’s obligations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements.
On December 15, 2020, the Council of the European Union (Council) approved in principle the creation of such an EU-wide animal welfare labeling scheme, calling on the European Commission to submit a proposal with specific details.1 While the precise form of the new scheme has not yet been determined, the broad strokes are as follows: The EU will create a new European animal welfare label and restrict its use to those suppliers who comply with a to-be-determined minimum standard of animal treatment. The scheme is intended to eventually apply across all livestock species for their entire lifecycle — presumably also extending to, inter alia, fish, eggs, and dairy.2
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