The future of animal husbandry in Germany is under discussion and the Green party has made it a campaign issue.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
GAIN Report Number: GM12030
New Animal Welfare Standards Could Impact Trade
Livestock and Products
Leif Erik Rehder
The future of animal husbandry in Germany is under discussion and the Green party has made it a
campaign issue for upcoming federal and state elections. The implementation of national standards
prior to the EU-wide standards could hurt the competitiveness of German farmers. Beyond changing
production conditions in Germany and Europe, there are calls to ensure that imported animal
products also comply with European animal welfare standards.
Germany’s Political Discussion of Animal Welfare
An amendment to the German Animal Welfare Act being discussed in the Parliament (the Bundestag)
would prohibit the castration of piglets without anesthesia starting in 2017. The amendment would
also increase internal controls and record keeping by farmers. The proposed amendment is laying
bare a broader discussion about the costs and benefits of additional animal welfare policies and the
competitiveness of German farmers, who are often called upon to take the lead in new animal welfare
practices not yet adopted in the EU or other countries. The amendment must be passed by both the
Bundestag and the Federal Council before the legislation can come into effect.
Bundestag Public Hearings
Dr. Helmut Born, General Secretary of the German Farmers Federation (DBV), spoke on October 17,
2012 at a Bundestag public hearing on the proposed amendment to the Animal Welfare Act. He
declared that animal welfare is very important for farmers not only for economic reasons but also for
ethical and consumer acceptance reasons. Dr. Born also acknowledged that animal welfare practices
are changing and continue to develop. He highlighted business practices and certifications, such as the
Quality and Safety (QS) or the milk quality management (QM), under which compliance with animal
welfare regulations are already being overseen in Germany.
Dr. Born reminded parliamentarians of the example of Germany’s prohibition on laying hen cages,
which went into effect in 2010, two years before the law was to have been applied in other EU
countries. This resulted in a drop in egg production and loss of jobs as cages were exported to EU
countries with less rigorous implementation and eggs produced in those cages were imported into
Germany. The failure of other EU members to implement the laying hen cage directives is a poignant
and oft used political talking point by the Germany’s poultry industry.
Dr. Born gave other examples of regulations, such as those on livestock density, light conditions,
bedding areas, etc., where Germany applies stricter rules than other European countries. These lead
to higher production cost, which disadvantage German livestock farmers.
Another example is new housing requirements for sows, which come into effect in the EU in 2013. The
federal ministry of agriculture, food and consumer protection (BMELF) has confirmed that there will be
no exceptions to the rule and that there is intensive work by the industry underway to comply with the
transition period. Representatives of the German livestock industry fear that other countries will not
fully comply with the new requirements, as was the case with laying hen cages.
Potential Impact on Trade
There are two trade-related aspects arising from the German animal welfare movement. First, within
the EU, implementation of national standards prior to the EU puts German farmers at a cost
disadvantage. Germany’s pork industry has expanded dramatically in the past decade, fueled by
exports. The industry’s ability to mitigate costs while still meeting new standards poses a challenge.
Second, longer-term, there is the real possibility that today’s animal rights standards will become
tomorrow’s trade restrictions. Clearly, animal welfare has become an important political topic in
Germany and, in the run up to elections next fall, the Green Party has made it a campaign issue. The
Green Party’s main initiative is restricting large scale animal operations, which are portrayed as having
more animal welfare problems than smaller farms. In contrast, while the governing Christian
Democratic Union (CDU) party encourages greater protection of animals, they feel improvements
should be made prudently because stricter regulation could lead to the outsourcing of production.
Declaration for the compliance of animal welfare standards
Beyond changing production conditions in Germany and Europe, there are calls to ensure that
imported animal products also comply with European animal welfare standards. There also appears to
be little common understanding of foreign animal welfare standards and their comparability to those
A good and recent example is an October 4 common declaration by DBV, the German Rural Women’s
Federation, the Rural Service of the Protestant Church, the Catholic Movement of rural people, and
the German Federation of Rural Youth.
Active national animal welfare policies should be pursued in context of the European single market in
order to prevent competition distortions at the expense of the animals and of livestock farmers in
some (other) countries. Animal welfare standards should be firmly anchored in the WTO trade
negotiations. If this is not possible for the Federal Government and the European Commission, there
has to be a special protection for animal welfare standards achieved in Germany and Europe. Animal
welfare is not divisible. Domestic as well as imported products must be produced under similar
End Unofficial Translation.
Introduction of new, private, animal welfare label
Starting January 2013, German consumers will be able to buy pork and poultry labeled, “For better
animal health” at two food retail chains. The German association for the protection of animals is to
begin certifying farms for this program in October. Program requirements include ensuring that feeder
pigs receive one third more space than required under law, that there are opportunities for activity
installed in the stables, and that piglets will not be castrated without anesthesia. Tail docking is not
allowed. It is envisioned that Certified products will be positioned between conventional and organic
products. Currently, less than 1% of the meat consumption in Germany is organic.