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The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP)


The goal of the CAP

 The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is one the most important common policy and funding mechanism for the European Union’s (EU) agriculture. Its goal is to ensure that agriculture remains sustainable and competitive. To help achieve this goal, the EU’s budget is spent to help farmers with income support, based on market orientation and market measures, to balance the impacts on vulnerable common agricultural markets and rural development programmes. With an annual budget of roughly €59 billion, those measures are financed through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.


First steps of the CAP

 The CAP was created in the late 50s, to increase production, guarantee a decent income to farmers and provide food at a reasonable price for consumers. It’s inclusion in the Union’s founding treaties has also provided legislation on farm animal welfare.


The CAP measures turned out to be very effective. Food production increased, and by the 1970s the EU was already producing more food than needed. The CAP has been successful by strengthening the European agriculture sector. However, it led together with global trends and competition within the agricultural market, to immense intensification of animal production.


Impact on Animal Welfare

 The negative impact on the welfare of animals has been enormous: the CAP has prioritised quantity over quality of production and, consequently this led to the use of high yield breeds. Furthermore, animals were adapted to the keeping system (i.e. mutilation) instead of doing it the other way around.


Background & Latest developments

Since its implementation with the Treaties of Rome in 1957, the CAP has been reformed several times, to adapt the system to the challenges faced at that times. The last major reform was in 2003, in reaction to the WTO negotiations, the EU, realigned the CAP towards a more market orientated and international free trade.

In the context of these reforms, animal welfare was included among the objectives of the CAP.


Thanks to this reform the subsidies became de-coupled from production, with farmers receiving two types of subsidies – an income support based on the size of their farm and a payment for farming and producing public goods, such as systems benefiting animal welfare or the environment.


With that reform an animal welfare payment was established. If Member States were willing to include them in their rural development programs, there were now measures that could be used to improve the welfare of animals.


Despite these minor improvements, the CAP still is not significantly improving the welfare of animals. FOUR PAWS therefore campaigns for a fundamental reform of the CAP and related policies that supports healthy food and an animal friendly farming system.

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