Broiler chickens

New EU Soil Law Must Not Ignore Livestock Farming

FOUR PAWS welcomes the adoption of the proposal for an EU Soil Law but brings attention to the absence of provisions on livestock farming


Brussels/Vienna, 5 July 2023 – Today, the European Commission adopted its proposal to create a monitoring framework for the protection of soil which is intended to stop degradation by intensive farming and halt the effects of climate crisis.

The proposals come in the recent wake of last month's huge political storm around EU environmental laws which have split EU political groups and Member States.

FOUR PAWS, the global animal welfare organisation, welcomed the proposal but emphasised that they “were not ambitious enough” especially when it comes to the issue of livestock farming.

“In the same way that industrial animal farming is the major source of water pollution, it lies at the heart of soil deterioration. It is crucial to confront and rectify the problem of excessive numbers of livestock in order to protect and restore our soils for the good of the environment, ecosystem, and economy.”

Soil health has a key role in biodiversity protection, climate mitigation and food production (95% of which is dependent on soils), around 70% of EU soil ecosystems are in an unhealthy situation.

The Commission proposal aims “to achieve healthy soils by 2050”, yet this cannot be achieved solely by implementing a monitoring system. Soil must have the same protections as air and water do. This can only be achieved by adopting a determined Soil Health Law – as proposed in the EU Soil Strategy for 2030 – with binding targets for the next three decades.

Factory farming contributes to soil degradation in multiple ways. In fact, 80% of EU soil acidification caused by agriculture is due to livestock farming which often results in excessive manure pollution and overgrazing from too many animals on one farm, which destroys the soil’s ability to store carbon.

“Therefore, a reduction in the number of farmed animals is necessary to ensure synergies between animals and the ecosystems they inhabit. This can help prevent imbalances like overgrazing. Tackling these issues would contribute to addressing the current threats to biodiversity, climate, public health, and the environment.”

Sophie Aylmer, FOUR PAWS Head of Farm Animals & Nutrition Policy

We cannot continue having this many poultry in factory farms as they exacerbate the circulation and development of avian influenza. Also, to limit viral transmission between facilities, we need to reduce the density of industrial farms. Decentralising production, including slaughter, is another key to limiting disease spread and animal welfare issues. Lastly, there should be no poultry farms near natural resting areas of migratory birds (wetlands), where the risk of inter-species contact and viral transmission is particularly high.

Aylmer concluded that, "We now call on policymakers at the European Parliament and the Council to give this proposal the ambition it needs by including binding targets and provisions that tackle unsustainable farming methods. Specifically, this would involve enabling a reduction of the excessive livestock population in the EU and guarantee species-appropriate animal welfare standards.”


European Commission Health Soil Monitoring Law Proposal:

Climate and Animal Welfare

Climate & Animal welfare

Learn more about the effects of industrial animal farming here

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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 and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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