It is time for a new European animal welfare law

EU’s animal welfare legislation is not comprehensive enough. This is the clear-cut conclusion of a survey undertaken amongst EU’s 28 chief veterinary officers on commission of the Finnish Presidency. No less than 88 percent of the 24 vets who responded to the questionnaire are in favour of stricter animal welfare legislation, Politico reports. "This is a very clear message from the state vets, and it matches the expectations of the European people, who repeatedly ask for more animal welfare according to the annual Eurobarometer surveys. I think it’s time to seriously consider a European animal welfare framework Law," Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe, said. The idea of having a single EU animal welfare framework law enjoyed support from 63 percent of the countries in the survey, while 87 percent said there is a need for additional legislation on areas where no detailed laws are in place at the moment. A whopping 91 percent answered that animal welfare should have a more central role in EU trade agreements with third-countries. EU has not adopted any animal welfare legislation since the killing method regulation from 2009. It is widely recognised in Brussels circles that this is due to animal welfare simply not being high on the political agenda. The Finnish Presidency however, seems determined to change that with the likely outcome being a European Council conclusion by the end of Finland’s term. Conclusions are adopted by the by consensus between all EU Member States and used to identify specific issues of concern, and influence EU’s policy agenda. "Animal welfare is clearly a common European matter, and all parts of our society is pointing in the same direction. We believe EU should take the cue and lead the way on animal welfare. When EU is passive on animal welfare they leave a room for all kinds of radical animal initiatives, and to be honest I think both people and animals are best off if we approach animal welfare with a base in scientific knowledge rather than emotional hysteria," Mette Lykke Nielsen said. She points out that EU already has the tools to efficiently improve animal welfare standards in Europe from the Welfare Quality project, the largest animal welfare project in the world to date, which set out to develop principles for animal welfare assessment from a multidisciplinary perspective. The European fur sector’s WelFur programme is based on and peer-reviewed against these principles. "WelFur has already been validated and adopted in the European Commission’s database for self-regulations. Soon we will have the assessment data ready and thus a clear picture of our welfare standards. The extensive data set is also the starting point for future welfare improvements as well as new research, for example under the umbrella of the new animal welfare reference centre for fur animals. This is the real quality of WelFur and Welfare Quality," Mette Lykke Nielsen said.