State of the Union Speech

FOUR PAWS welcomes the mention of Climate Catastrophe and COVID-19 in the State of The Union Address but missed the link between Animal and Human Welfare

While the speech addressed the two biggest threats the European Union currently faces, it failed to mention one of the main drivers behind both of these issues.


“FOUR PAWS welcomes that today’s emotional State of the Union speech by the President of the European Commission focused on both, the COVID-19 pandemic and the European Green Deal as a path towards a sustainable future. However, we regret that in both instances, the connection between animals and human wellbeing was not mentioned”, says Pierre Sultana, Director of the European Policy Office at FOUR PAWS. “If we want to move towards a greener, more sustainable and safer future we need to acknowledge and address the issues that our mistreatment of animals cause.”

Two out of three newly emerging diseases are zoonotic. Bird Flu, Swine Flu and BSE threatened public health in the last three decades, and the current COVID-19 pandemic is not only of animal origin, but fur farms across the globe have played a significant role in the spread and mutation of the virus, threatening progress in the battle against the disease and potentially decreasing vaccine efficacy. “We need to prevent the next pandemic, rather than preparing for it”, says Sultana. “The way this virus has spread on mink farms in the last 18 Months has shown that increased biosafety measures are not sufficient when facing a threat like COVID-19. The European Commission needs to prohibit all fur farming across its member states to protect its citizens.”

“While fur farming poses a risk, with four out of seven disease drivers linked to factory farming, the animals we eat are the most likely to cause the next pandemic . The rising global demand for meat is not only causing large scale ecological disruption and releasing unknown pathogens, but also increasing the number of sick animals in intensive systems, due to the proximity between animals and little genetic diversity. This puts human health at risk.  FOUR PAWS call for increased welfare standards, larger space requirements and stricter monitoring of animal health. In order to address this on a global scale, FOUR PAWS urges the European Union to work towards a global pandemics treaty that names animal health and welfare measures as key to preventing future pandemics.”

However, farm animal welfare is not only connected to disease prevention. Scientific consensus is clear on the impact it has on the climate catastrophe. “FOUR PAWS was excited to hear the IPCC report mentioned, a report that clearly shows that climate change is human made. However, although President von der Leyen spoke about the coming COP26, the speech failed to address the issue of animal agriculture, one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions. If we want to meet the goals set in the Paris Agreement, the European Union needs to encourage a shift away from animal-based products and move towards a more plant-based diet,” says Sultana. “Food systems  not only cause a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, but food production is also the leading driver in biodiversity loss and deforestation. With 77% of agricultural land used to raise and feed animals, we need to drastically reduce the number of animals farmed if we want to stand a chance against the climate catastrophe. The European Commission needs to actively take measures to change the current agricultural system, placing responsibility for sustainability on the producer rather than the consumer.”

Finally, FOUR PAWS welcomes President Von der Leyen’s announcement to double EU external funding for biodiversity. Pierre Sultana hopes that “this fund will be used to tackle the legal commercial trade and keeping of wild animals, particularly in big cats, and to combat the scourge of illegal trafficking in the EU."

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in twelve countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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