Agriculture Minister Veerman indifferent to animal welfare

3 September 2004

Agriculture Minister Veerman indifferent to animal welfare

Dutch Agriculture Minister Cees Veerman, current holder of the Presidency of the Eu Council of Agriculture Ministers, has categorically refused to commit himself to establishing a maximum time for the transport of farm animals. The refusal came in answer to a question from SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard, who described his failure to seize the opportunity to limit travel times as “scandalous”.

Mr Veerman expressed his unwillingness to act during a meeting of the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament. Ms Liotard reminded Mr Veerman of the terrible conditions in which animals are transported, and said she was unable to understand why he was unwilling to act to limit the duration of journeys: "You can measure how civilised a society is by the way it treats animals. Veerman´s response can only lead to the neglect of animal welfare.”

Under pressure, the minister claimed that he was prepared to support legislation to improve certain aspects of the transport of animals, but was unclear about the details. The SP proposes that the minister quickly makes good this omission and comes forward with concrete proposals.

Mr Veerman also spoke about the role of the state as regards agricultural policy. For the Agriculture Council to take place in Lisse on 7 September he has prepared a discussion paper, "Agriculture under the public eye", in which he argues for a discussion about the division of roles between the EU and major food corporations. He believes that as far as food policy goes there should be less EU legislation and that more should be left to the industry to regulate itself. Ms Liotard does not agree: “What I wanted to hear from Veerman was that issue such as food safety, environmental protection and animal welfare will always remain matters for the public authorities.” She heard no such assurance, reason enough for the SP to keep a close eye on discussions and developments during the Dutch Presidency and instigate actions to keep up the pressure. On 7 September, to coincide with the informal Agriculture Summit of EU ministers in Lisse, a group of Dutch organisations has organised an “Alternative Summit” at which Kartika Liotard will be present.

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