State of the Union 2023: Ursula von der Leyen’s forgotten Animal Welfare pledge  

FOUR PAWS notes that commitments to improving animal welfare, in-line with the Commission's own plans, were conspicuous by their absence. Were all the promises empty talk? 


BRUSSELS - Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, delivered her annual State of the Union speech today, and in so doing leaving a giant question mark hanging over the future of long-promised proposals to overhaul rules on animal welfare within the EU.  

After three years of promises made by the European Commission to revise the current EU rules on animal welfare, following the pledge in the Farm to Fork strategy addressing the “urgent need to improve animal welfare”, the silence is now deafening. Are animals being left behind once again? 

In her speech centered on “Promises kept”, President von der Leyen highlighted that “if it matters to Europeans, it matters to Europe”, but not when it comes to animal welfare apparently. A special Eurobarometer on animal welfare was due to be published this summer but remains nowhere to be seen. 

The current rules for animals in the EU are outdated, the European Commission has said so itself, as evidenced by the latest scientific evidence and societal demands. It therefore comes as a surprise, after many consultations, public surveys, impact assessments and two successful European Citizens’ Initiatives, that President von der Leyen omitted to mention animal welfare in her list of ‘to do’ actions for the remainder of this term.  

Joe Moran, Director of European Policy Office at FOUR PAWS, said, “The silence on animal welfare was deafening. This should have been the moment of truth. Civil society has been promised action to overhaul our Union’s antiquated animal welfare rules time and time again, and yet we heard nothing? This is unacceptable. 

“Have promises made on the back of participatory democratic tools, the calls and concerns of millions of Europeans and the ethics of animal welfare just been discarded on a bonfire fueled by political expediency and pusillanimity? Or perhaps the Commission President simply forgot?  

“It is still not too late for this Commission to do the right thing and to ensure the proposals are adopted within the coming weeks. If they won’t do it, we will throw every ounce of energy into ensuring the next Commission will.” 



State of the Union address 2023: State of the Union 2023 (

The State of the Union address, also known as the State of the European Union or SOTEU, is the annual speech addressed by the President of the European Commission to the European Parliament plenary session in September. It serves to outline the main priorities and flagship initiatives for the year to come. 

President von der Leyen’s SOTEU 2023, is the last address in this legislative mandate, ahead of the 2024 European elections. 

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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