UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Organic Dairy Cattle: Do European Union Regulations Promote Animal Welfare? Duval, Eugénie; von Keyserlingk, Marina A. G.; Lecorps, Benjamin


Animal welfare is an emerging concept in EU law; with the advent of specific regulations intending to protect animals. The approach taken by European lawmakers is to provide “minimum standards” for conventional farming; argued by some as failing to adequately protect animals. In contrast, the EU organic farming regulations aim to “establish a sustainable management system for agriculture” and promote “high animal welfare standards”. The first aim of this review was to identify key areas where there are clear improvements in quality of life for dairy cattle housed under the EU organic regulations when compared to the conventional EU regulations. Using the available scientific evidence, our second aim was to identify areas where the organic regulations fail to provide clear guidance in their pursuit to promote high standards of dairy cattle welfare. The greater emphasis placed on natural living conditions, the ban of some (but unfortunately not all) physical mutilations combined with clearer recommendations regarding housing conditions potentially position the organic dairy industry to achieve high standards of welfare. However, improvements in some sections are needed given that the regulations are often conveyed using vague language, provide exceptions or remain silent on some aspects. This review provides a critical reflection of some of these key areas related to on-farm aspects. To a lesser extent, post farm gate aspects are also discussed

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