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Animal Health and Welfare
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International Animal Welfare Issues

Office International des Epizooties (OIE)

On 23-25 February 2004 the OIE organised the first global conference on animal welfare at its headquarters in Paris. For more information, see the Q&A; de fr pdf and the dedicated OIE website.

The EU fully supports the initiative of the OIE regarding animal welfare and hopes to concretely contribute to the process, in particular in relation to this global conference.

The primary objective of the Conference was to improve the global understanding of the linkage between animal health and animal welfare and to seek NGOs' input on how they, as bodies representing the views of stakeholders in many countries, could contribute most effectively to the OIE's work.

The Conference brought together stakeholders (governmental authorities, scientists, private sector and non profit NGOs) from around the world to support OIE in its animal welfare activities and to assess the way they should contribute most effectively. The draft conference programme has been published and is available via the conference website.

In May 2002 the OIE adopted a Resolution on Animal Welfare pdf The 166 member countries of the OIE have accepted to start the development of policies and guiding principles to provide a sound foundation from which to elaborate specific recommendations and standards.

The first meeting of a Working Group was held from 16 to 18 October 2002 in Paris (Report of this meeting concerning Animal Welfarepdf).

In particular it examined the best options for incorporating the views of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including industry, in its work on animal welfare. The International Committee of the OIE adopted in May 2003 the resolution No XXVI (see document p.75) pdf that supports the work program of the OIE in this field and the organisation of the first global conference on animal welfare and calls for support to the initiative.

Animal welfare legislation on farmed animals in Third Countries and the implications for the EU

In November 2002 the Commission adopted a Communication to the Council and European Parliamentpdf comparing animal welfare standards in the European Union with standards in third country trading partners. The Report analyses ways to avoid potential competitive disadvantages and subsequent deterioration in animal welfare standards as a result of disparities in measures.

The study shows that there is no international consensus on the role of animal welfare and the measures in place in the EU cannot be readily compared with the standards in third countries.

A key issue for the report was whether competitive disadvantages arise from disparities in animal welfare measures. The evidence available suggests that competitive distortions are most likely to arise in the more intensive forms of agricultural production, notably in the pig and poultry sectors.

Starting from the assumption that competitive distortions (whether to the advantage or disadvantage of EU producers) arising from differences in standards have the clear potential to undermine higher animal welfare, the report investigates a number of channels to prevent such a development:

  • Market mechanisms – consumers are increasingly willing to pay more for "ethical" products;
  • Dialogue at the international level aiming at greater recognition of animal welfare, in particular in the framework of the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) and the Council of Europe;
  • Promotion of animal welfare standards in trade arrangements;
  • Within the Commission, DG TRADE is responsible for general trade issues, including negotiations in the WTO), DG Agriculture as far as trade in agricultural products is concerned;
  • Improvement of labelling regimes to respond to consumer demands for higher standards;
  • DG Agriculture is responsible for the labelling of agricultural products, for other labelling questions DG Enterprise is the responsible Commission service;
  • Strengthening the position of animal welfare in EU agricultural policy as part of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy focusing on "quality rather than quantity";
  • The web site of DG Agriculture informs about the ongoing reform of the Common Agricultural Policy;

The pros and cons of each path are analysed in the document with a particular focus on the implications of animal welfare as regards animal health, food safety and consumer concerns. The Report concludes that efforts must concentrate on all fronts in order to cope with the complexity of animal welfare and its ethical and cultural dimension.

Imports of cat and dog furs

Following reports in the media, there are increasing concerns in Europe about the production, use, trade and import of cat and dog fur.

At present, no information confirms that cats and dogs are farmed for their fur in the European Union, or in the ten countries due to become members of the EU by 2004. The Commission is aware that such farming practices are present in some third countries and that fur is then imported into the Member States.

The Commission is currently examining options for a Community measure taking into consideration the respective requirements of WTO law, legal bases under Community law and the interplay with existing legislation to prevent consumer deception.

Council of Europe

In 1988 the Community ratified the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes. The Community and the Member States are parties to the Convention. They also participated in the process of drafting and adoption of recommendations for the welfare of different animal species which are elaborated by the Standing Committee of the Convention. The Member States are expected to give effect to the recommendations.

In the framework of this Convention recommendations on the protection of duck and geese and of fur animals entered into force. The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare´s (SCAHAW) opinion on Welfare aspects for the production of foie gras in ducks and geesepdf served as reference for these recommendations.

A Recommendation concerning turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo ssp.) was adopted by the Standing Committee on 21 June 2001 in Strasbourg and entered into force on 21 December 2001. The recommendation recognises that some methods of husbandry at present in commercial use fail to meet the biological needs and hence result in poor welfare. Therefore all Contracting Parties shall encourage research on the development of new husbandry systems and methods of breeding and management in line with the Convention so that the needs of the animals can be met. The environment and management practices must fulfil the animal’s biological needs rather than trying to adapt the animals to the environment by procedures such as mutilation. The recommendation shall be reviewed within 5 years of coming into force.

A recommendation on the protection of animals kept for fur production was amended in 1999. General requirements for the farming of the following species are provided: mink, polecat, ferret, fitch, foxes, coypu, nutria and chinchilla. On 12-13 December 2001, the SCAHAW adopted an opinion on The Welfare of Animals kept for Fur Productionpdf.

In 1988 the Community also ratified the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Animals for Slaughter.

On 11 June 2003 the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers adopted the revised Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport. The Convention will be opened for signature by Council of Europe member states and the European Union on the occasion of the 113th session of the Committee of Ministers in Chisinau, Moldova on 5 November 2003.

  • See this related press release : Commission proposes signing the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Animals during International Transport

World Trade Organisation (WTO)

The Commission has undertaken to raise the issue of animal welfare in the new WTO negotiating round. However, during the negotiations in Seattle in 1999 there was no support for the approach as proposed by the Community. The Commission continued nonetheless to work towards international acceptance of animal welfare concerns during the WTO ministerial conference in Doha in November 2001.

Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO)

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) provides an Animal Welfare Gateway at the following address : or this link

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