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FARMING

Austrian farmers look to new export markets

Austrian farmers hit by a Russian food import ban are looking to tap into other export markets - particularly North Africa and Asia, according to Agriculture Minister Andrä Rupprechter (ÖVP).

Austrian farmers look to new export markets
Photo: APA/dpa

Rupprechter said that the goal is to make up for losses incurred by the loss of agricultural exports to Russia within two years by opening up new markets, particularly in China.

Austrian farmers who produce meat, milk, cheese, fruit and vegetables, are experiencing “difficult” times, said Farmers Union President Jakob Auer.

Chamber of Agriculture President Hermann Schultes said the import ban was a “tsunami” for the European agricultural sector. He said it had come at a “sensitive transition period” and that if the EU didn’t take effective countermeasures it would “grossly interfere with the market”.

The Russian embargo, announced last month, was in retaliation for US and European sanctions over Moscow's alleged role in separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

Set to last for a year, the Russian ban covers imports of meats, fruits and vegetables, fish and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Australia, Canada and Norway.

Last year Austria exported agricultural goods worth €237.6 million to Russia, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. It also exported meat products worth €49 million.

Rupprechter said that he hopes an extraordinary meeting of EU Agriculture Ministers on Friday will increase efforts to “cushion the impact of the Russian embargo”. He said Austrian pig farmers will be particularly affected.

Agricultural representatives appealed again to people to buy domestic products when they can.

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ENVIRONMENT

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. 

READ ALSO: Penguin rescued after being ‘kidnapped’ from Salzburg zoo

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. 

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