Austria opposes new EU bio farm rules

Austria and Germany have both stated their opposition to proposed new rules from the EU Commission relating to the management of organic, or 'bio' farms.

Austria opposes new EU bio farm rules
Austrian cows on an organic farm. Photo: c_pichler/Flickr

"If this regulation is implemented, many organic farmers in Austria may stop farming," warned Agricultural Minister Andrae Rupprechter of the Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) on Monday before a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels. 

The European Commission intends to reinforce the existing rules for organic farming.  There are some exceptions to be abolished, which allow farmers to alternate between organic and conventional farming. 
German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt said on Monday that he considered such strict rules "not practicable and not necessary".
Certain exceptions should continue to exist, and he considered the new limits specified by the Commission not to be realistic.
Rupprechter referred to the "over-bureaucratic" provisions of the regulation. "When I think that in the future colouring eggs is no longer possible, then that's just absurd," said the Minister of Agriculture. 
Austria and Germany will share a common cause on Monday in Brussels when it comes to milk quotas. These expire in March 2015, and until then the EU Commission imposes penalties for overproduction.
Together with the Netherlands, the governments of Berlin and Vienna have now presented a proposal to amend the so-called "fat correction" rules – and thus to achieve a reduction in the penalties. 
In contrast to June, when Rupprechter was rebuffed by the United Kingdom and France, he now hopes for a success.
"We will now make a last ditch attempt to reach an agreement with the fat correction," he said before the meeting.
The new proposal takes into account the concerns of France, Spain and Italy.
"I believe it will be a success," Schmidt also said before the meeting of the Council.

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Austria bans ‘senseless’ killing of chicks with new animal welfare rules

The Federal Government announced a new legislative package with stricter rules for animal welfare, banning the "senseless" killing of chicks, tighter rules for live animal transport and installing other protection measures.

Austria bans 'senseless' killing of chicks with new animal welfare rules

Austria’s Federal Government has put together a new set of rules for stricter animal welfare in the country, most notably banning the practice of mass killing and disposal of male newborn chicks.  

“This package of measures is a great success for animal welfare, which finally implements years of demands of animal rights activists,” explains Animal Welfare Minister Johannes Rauch in a press conference detailing the measures.

Rauch announced the end of the “senseless” killing of chicks. Instead, the minister explained that the animals would be culled and used as feed in zoos, saying there is a great demand and zoos have been importing meat for their animals. 

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In the future, Austria will carry out “gender determinations” of the animals before they hatch to take “appropriate measures earlier”.

Rauch added that the “shredding” of chicks, a controversial culling measure, did not take place in Austria even before the new steps. 

Measures for cow and pig welfare

The present animal welfare package will end the uninterrupted, year-round tying of cattle from 2030.

For pigs, there will be an “incentive” to offer more space for the animals, with new and converted stables and cooling planned. Rauch said that the measures were a compromise and first step but that “we are not yet where we want to go”. 

READ ALSO: Austria to ban online ads offering pets for sale

The package also imposes new rules for live animal transport, including shorter transport times and a ban on transporting newborns. 

Most of the provisions will come into force from 2023, the minister added. The package will be officially voted in Parliament at the end of June. 

“Unacceptable”: Criticism from animal protection groups and opposition

Animal protection groups in Austria have criticised the federal government’s plan as unacceptable and a “weak compromise”. 

Pigs and cattle for fattening will still stand on full-coated soils, tail cropping and anaesthetic castration will continue to be common practice in piglets, and animals will be transported far too young and far too long, the Vier Pfoten group pointed out in a statement.

READ ALSO: Why Vienna is a haven for wild animals – and where you can find them

“There was not even a serious attempt to put an end to this cruelty to animals”, the group’s director Eva Rosenberg said.

Opposition SPÖ has also criticised the government plans, calling it “a mess”, according to Vienna Animal Welfare spokesperson Eva Persy. The NEOS parliamentary groups said the measures were “pure cosmetics”, and the proposals do not go far enough.