UKRAINE –  Accession negotiations between the European Union (EU) and Ukraine, which begin this week, present a unique opportunity to enhance the country’s animal welfare standards, according to the leading animal protection group, Eurogroup for Animals. 

The lobby group has raised concerns that Ukraine’s current animal welfare standards fall significantly below those of EU member states. 

They view the accession talks as crucial for Ukraine to align its practices with EU norms, improving the lives of millions of farmed animals, including the 712 million poultry slaughtered annually.

Ukraine has a substantial livestock agriculture sector and is the EU’s second-largest egg producer after France and the fourth-largest poultry producer. 

Agricultural products, including wheat, maize, and sunflower, dominate Ukraine’s exports, which account for 41% of the country’s total exports. 

Ukraine also boasts some of the world’s most fertile land, contributing significantly to global food production.

Eurogroup for Animals urges the EU to address issues such as cage-free farming during these negotiations proactively. 

They argue that aligning Ukraine’s practices with EU standards will benefit animal welfare and enable producers to make future-proof investments, avoiding additional costs in the coming years. 

The group also calls on the EU to clarify upcoming animal welfare legislation and ensure that funds are not supporting unsustainable farming practices.

Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals, emphasized the importance of these negotiations to improve animal welfare in Ukraine. 

Failing to support Ukraine in transitioning to anticipated EU animal welfare standards would lead to a two-speed Europe, detrimental to both animals and EU consumers and producers,” she said. 

Hameleers also stressed the need for the EU to implement an action plan to end cage farming across the continent, including Ukraine.

EU leaders decided to open accession negotiations with Ukraine in December 2023, shortly after Ukraine’s application for membership in February 2022, the onset of the war with Russia. 

As of May 2023, the European Council has continued to support Ukraine by suspending import duties and quotas on Ukrainian and Moldovan exports to the EU for another year.

Olga Kikou, director of advocacy at the European Institute for Animal Law and Policy, acknowledges the importance of animal welfare standards but expects the topic to be a low priority during the talks due to Ukraine’s current situation. 

We are talking about a war-torn country. In the EU, we tend to see things differently because we’re not in that situation,” she said.

Ukraine’s agricultural sector has suffered an estimated US$80 billion in damages and losses due to the war. Rebuilding is expected to cost US$56.1 billion, with an additional US$32 billion needed for landmine removal. 

Kikou notes that while the EU’s agricultural standards are considered basic, Ukraine’s standards do not yet meet these levels. 

She believes the EU must ensure that Ukraine adheres to the values listed in the Treaty of the European Union as part of the accession process.

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