European Commission bids on Science for New Animal Welfare Legislation
Dec 09 2020 - The European Commission wants to keep the new animal welfare laws up to date with the latest scientific knowledge, according to an EU official. This would require taking into account the most recent science when revising the current animal welfare legislative framework. "We don’t start from scratch – we have previous evaluations, we have previous knowledge, we know there are certain shortcomings to be addressed - there is a gap between legislation and recent science, and an inability to assume new science flexibly," said Christian Juliusson, DG SANTE during the online event on animal welfare organised by the Sustainable Fur Forum on 2 December. The revision of the animal welfare legislation is part of the Farm to Fork Strategy, which is the cornerstone of the Green Deal and the ambitions to make the continent climate neural by 2050. "The commitment is quite specific. There is indeed a need for a science-based approach, a need for new science. One objective is to align the legislation in the future with the latest knowledge," added Mr Juliusson. The process started in May this year with the so-called ‘'fitness check’' which will assess all existing law affecting animal keeping and breeding practices, transport and killing methods. The Commission hopes it would also be able to enforce stricter control over animal welfare breaches. "There is also the clear ambition to broaden the scope compared to what we have today and also make it easier to enforce [..] Certain species of animals lack a specific legislation for them," said Mr Juliusson. In September, the Commission threatened to take several Member states to court over violations of animal welfare of farm animals. ‘"Our task is to make sure the future legislation is enforceable to a larger extent than it is today. The ultimate goal is to ensure a high level of animal welfare." This, according to a representative of the European Reference Centre on the welfare of poultry, rabbits and small animals, could be accomplished if the legislation envisages the use of animal-based indicators in assessments. "The actual animal welfare legislation is exclusively based on resource-based measures when it should be using animal-based measures instead, which are more accurate," said prof. Prof. Steen Henrik Møller. The purpose of the EU reference centres for animal welfare is to gather existing scientific knowledge and contribute to the dissemination of good practices on animal welfare in the EU. The scientific and technical expertise of the centres will be used to carrying out studies and developing methods for animal welfare assessment and improvement. As part of the revision of the animal welfare framework, the Commission is planning to launch an external study next year and to consult stakeholders through public consultation. It will also look into the impacts of the future animal welfare legislation on the agriculture, trade and environment.
WelFur Extends To Finnraccoon
Nov 04 2020 - Another breakthrough in on-farm animal welfare certification as the new WelFur protocol for Finnraccoon is rolling out. The development of a fully functional on-farm assessment means that Finnraccoon farms are certified the same way as mink and fox farms. ”Finnraccoon farmers now have the same system as mink and fox farmers already have. A lot of species-specific practices for animal welfare has been developed. Finnraccoons are extremely well domesticated and feel well in a farming environment. Now we can measure the animal welfare on my farm, and follow if we can improve it every year,” said farmer Esa Rantakangas from Lappajärvi. Scientists behind the protocol spent several years to go through all existing research before they were able to develop species-specific animal welfare assessment. In 2019, the pilot phase started bringing the theoretical knowledge on the field to refine the calculations and the scoring system. The scientific validity of the protocols and the compliance with the methodology and principles of the European Commission’s Welfare Quality protocols were confirmed by the review committee, which was the final step in the development. The protocol works as a manual for the independent third-party assessors who assess fur farms. Built to evaluate and qualify animal welfare, the protocols take into an account complex calculation predominately based animal-based indicators which scientists consider as the most reliable way to measure animal welfare. Finnraccoon, also known as a raccoon dog, is farmed in Finland, and the production counted for 160.000 pelts in 2019.
EU Needs Comprehensive Legislation on Animal Welfare
Jun 09 2020 - The European Fur community welcomes the recent publication of a roadmap for the evaluation of the EU legislation on the welfare of farmed animals. The Fitness Check is part of the actions on animal welfare foreseen by the Farm to Fork Strategy to help the European Commission reflect on what further legislative and non-legislative actions are needed to align the EU’s animal welfare regulatory framework with the objectives of the F2F Strategy and the Green Deal. According to the fur sector, a simplified legislative framework and appropriate communication and information to consumers are the two critical aspects for a successful strategy. Far before the release of the F2F Strategy, Fur Europe has been advocating in favour of a single and comprehensive EU legislative framework for animal welfare. Up to now, the legislation mostly includes general provisions (e.g. Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes) and some rules regarding species-specific issues but no overarching legislation. Thus, various animal production systems and different parts of the value chain are covered by differing requirements, which has caused a fragmentation of animal welfare rules for livestock. The solution against this fragmentation is the adoption of a single and comprehensive Animal Welfare Framework Law on the model of Regulation (EU) 2016/429 on transmissible animal diseases (‘Animal Health Law’). The latter lays down general and specific rules for the prevention and control of transmissible animal diseases and ensures a harmonised approach to animal health across the EU. Similarly, a comparable Framework Regulation for animal welfare should apply to the entire EU livestock sector to streamline the amount of existing legislative acts and identify a harmonised set of science-based animal welfare principles. This includes clarity of duties and harmonised training for all actors of the value chain (farmers, transporters, vets, competent authorities), a uniform AW assessment methodology and sharing of good practices between the Member States. A new legislative framework will only be effective if it leads to a shift from input-based to output-based indicators. Animal scientists called for adopting animal-based indicators as a way to measure animals’ wellbeing rather than resource-based as they look directly at the individual animal and assess their physical and mental states. The WelFur programme, developed and launched by the fur sector in 2009, is a good example of such an approach. The Welfur certification requires three farm assessments and the maintenance of the certificate involves one assessment per year. It covers all EU fur farms, and without it, fur farmers cannot sell their production via international fur auction houses. Despite total compliance with animal welfare requirements and private industry initiatives like WelFur, often, consumers’ knowledge of animal welfare is not based on the reality of farming systems but prejudices and received ideas. The mismatch is often attributed to the disconnection between the rural and urban world. European farmers rely on adequate communication to help consumers understand fully the animal welfare improvements taking place on farms. Adequate discussion about animal welfare should start with a clear definition and explanations about measuring methods expending beyond emotions and anthropomorphism. In this regard, the EU should take a position in favour of fact-based and science-based indicators for animal welfare. But the Union also has another role; to encourage certification and labelling systems based on science and third-party assessments, on the model of WelFur, through financial and non-financial incentives. Such a move could steer consumers’ purchasing habits through reliable product information and offer a commercial advantage to producers adopting responsible practices. Such a step would be in line with the increased transparency foreseen by the F2F Strategy and is directly linked to the objective of improving animal welfare within the EU livestock sector. Fur Europe will gladly bring its contribution to the European Commission’s fitness check by hoping that Commission will agree that AW is not a cost but an asset. Farmers’ livelihoods depend on the quality of their products, which in turn depends on the good health and welfare farmers provide to animals. This asset requires an overarching Animal Welfare Framework Law relying on science and fostering transparency and labelling schemes.
Animal Welfare Expert: Welfare Cannot Be Assessed Through Checking Walls
May 15 2020 - Resource and management indicators could be used to identify risk factors, but welfare cannot be assessed through checking walls or floors, says Antoni Dalmau, an animal welfare researcher from Institute of Agrifood Research and Technology (IRTA) in Spain. He spent the last 15 years studying the complexity of one of the long-standing issues in farming – how to ensure a quality life for farmed animals. “Animal welfare is a condition of the individual animal, and animal welfare science is more and more about the assessment of the animal’s own experience. Only animal-based indicators can give you an idea about that.’’ The physical and emotional health of an animal as well as its behaviour, known as animal welfare, is at the centre of a long-lasting discussion between policymakers, scientists, and farmers. In recent years, it has also become part of the broader debate about sustainability practices in farming. But before anything else, animal welfare is a question of science. In order to evaluate the wellbeing of farmed animal species, scientists rely on animal-based indicators. They examine the physical and emotional state, the behaviour and even the appearance of an animal to determine the quality of life on the farm. But the process is not straightforward. To get a detailed picture, researchers take into account the so-called resource-based and management-based indicators which measure the environment where animals are bred. According to Mr Dalmau, although they provide important additional information, they cannot be given the same weight the measures which look directly into the animal. “You cannot assess what you are not observing. You are not assessing welfare if you are not using animal-based measures. If you are observing walls, you are assessing walls.” Creating an assessment based on the housing systems, for example, could give simplified and even misleading results, which do to reflect truly animal’s state of wellbeing. According to him, many people prefer these indicators because they are easier to communicate and understand. “NGOs are used to work with resource and management-based parameters because they are easy to apply and to communicate to their funding bodies and society - I don’t allow cages; I don’t allow tail docking; I don’t allow castration; I ask for free-range. This is easy to assess and to communicate.’ Narrowing it down the assessment method jeopardises the scientific objectivity, adds Mr Dalmau. “For most of the people, this means, better. But not for the animals. For them, easier, faster and cheaper is not better. For them, what is better is that their interests and states are taken into account.” According to him, this is also the reason why it is difficult to create one single animal welfare law across Europe. EU policymakers spent the last decade looking into ways to how to create a common framework for animal welfare legislation. Currently, there are not harmonised rules across the continent, and animal welfare is regulated by EU directives while rules in member states vary. More than a decade ago, the European Commission launched the Welfare Quality project in an effort to understand how animal welfare could be quantified. The research project endorsed the animal-based indicators and prompted the creation of protocols for cattle, pigs and poultry. Later, it also laid the groundwork for industry-led, voluntary certification programmes such as WelFur and WELFAIR™ - a livestock farms and slaughterhouses certification programme in Spain covering different animals. The European Union Reference Center for the Welfare for poultry and other small farmed animals is the latest initiative to collect and compare animal welfare data, and possibly help policymakers to create common legislation. According to Mr Dalmau, many expect science to provide a clear and simple, black or white answer about animal welfare, whereas the issue is much more complicated. ‘’Welfare is not present or absent, black or white; it is continuous improvement, and for this reason a good scientific validating and a realistic plan are important.’’ Current animal welfare programmes have been time-consuming and expensive to create. They required scientific knowledge, validating the science, training assessors and carrying out the large-scale inspections. But they also proved it is possible to evaluate and quantify animal welfare through science – knowledge which one day could be useful when the time for common animal welfare law comes.
EURCAW-Small Animals is open: WelFur to play a role
Apr 28 2020 - The EURCAW-Small Animals - or the European Union Reference Center for the Welfare for poultry and other small farmed animals - started operating in 2020. Europe’s other small farmed animals are all the fur farmed species, so the centre will have direct impact on European fur farming. EURCAW-Small Animals’ main objective is to provide support to the European Commission and Member States in the official implementation and control of animal welfare regulations. Introducing animal indicators are amongst the responsibilities of the centre, in addition to collection of comparable data on the welfare of animals across Europe for the European Commission. It goes without saying WelFur works along these lines already. Much attention will however be directed to poultry in the first two years of the centre’s existence. "The centre’s main task is to support the national welfare bodies in the Member States and the Commission with officials controls on the welfare and compliance with legal standards. I imagine comparison of WelFur results from different countries would be interesting in the context of the centre," Henrik Steen Møller, Aarhus University said. EURCAW-Small Animals is a consortium formed by the Institute of AgriFood Research (IRTA), the Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire de l’Alimentation-ANSES (France), the Aarhus Universitet-Institut for Husdyrvidenskab (Denmark), and the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia e dell’Emilia Romagna (Italy).
21 Fur Farms Failed to Obtain WelFur Certificate
Apr 08 2020 - Out of 2,787 European mink and fox farms which so far have had the initial three WelFur assessments, 21 farms - corresponding to 0.8 per cent - have failed to obtain a WelFur certificate. Without a WelFur certificate, the farm owners are prevented from selling their pelts at the international fur auction houses. The auctions are the regular marketplace for natural fur pelts, and without access to the market, these farmers are effectively put out of business. Other 57 farms, equaling 2 per cent, failed to obtain a certificate after three assessments. However, by later on passing a so-called 'correction assessment' before which critical issues were brought to order, all of these achieved their certification. "I regret we were not able to get everybody on board. At least it shows the certification scheme works. It’s not our ambition to let go of European fur farmers; it is rather our ambition to educate and guide everybody towards farm practices which supports good animal welfare. We welcome fur farmers back into WelFur if they can demonstrate they have improved their farm or management practices sufficiently," John Papsø, chairman of Fur Europe said. All countries or regions have a so-called WelFur advisor around; typically these are veterinarians working with the national fur breeders’ association. This person’s job is to help fur farmers analyse the WelFur data to improve animal welfare systematically. The WelFur advisor is particularly important to fur farmers who failed the original WelFur assessment because they can help change farmers to pass their correction assessment. Another 152 farms currently have no certification, but most of these are awaiting the third and final assessment before a certificate can be issued.
Report against WelFur fails to compromise its scientific basis
Feb 13 2020 - The animal lobby coalition Fur Free Alliance fails to bring anything new to the table in a new report about WelFur. Named 'Why WelFur fails to stop the suffering of animals on fur farms’ the report seeks to discredit WelFur and tie the fur sector's housing system with inherently poor animal welfare. "It's old wine on new bottles. At the end of the day this dispute comes down to values and gut-feelings, but the scientific literature does not support the notion that animals generally don't thrive on fur farms. Actually Fur Free Alliance makes no real attempt to attack the scientific foundation of WelFur either. They know of course, WelFur is very solid science, independent, and bulletproof, so they stay on the well-known slogans," Mette Lykke Nielsen, CEO of Fur Europe said. The report was presented in the European Parliament on 21 January, at the same time as Fur Europe's 'This is Fur' event. Yet, the organisers did not invite the fur sector to engage in an open debate, and this is not doing anything good for the democratic debate, according to Mette Lykke Nielsen. "A collective animal lobby has long ago announced they want a European-wide ban on fur farming, and at the same time they don't want to engage in debate with us. I'm a democrat by heart, so I don't have a whole lot of respect for this attitude, but I understand it's a strategy. It's a way to avoid being confronted with the scientific knowledge that threatens to disturb their ideas about animal welfare," she said. Does Fur Free Alliance's report have no merits at all? "Sure. It represents values that are legitimate in a free democracy, but its conclusions are speculative. The expert who draws the conclusions has never set foot on a fur farm. It's not really serious." Download Fur Europe's answer to the FFA report (pdf). WelFur is developed by independent scientists from European universities, and works on the same principles as the European Commission's Welfare Quality programme. Furthermore, WelFur is endorsed in the EU Database for Self-regulations.
The People Behind Fur – Meet Fur Farmers
Feb 12 2020 - The most important part of being a farmer is to love your animals because you depend on them for a living, says Rasa Salygienė. She and her husband moved back to their home country after working abroad as workers on farms. Their dream was to open a mink farm in Lithuania and live there with their children. Now Rasa talks about the challenges and whether she is happy with the choice she and her husband made in the video. Find out more stories like this in this section.
Open Position: WelFur Assistant
Jan 22 2020 - Fur Europe is currently hiring a full-time intern for a duration of either 6 or 12 months starting from 2nd March. The successful candidate will join an informal yet highly professional and collaborative working environment and a dedicated multi-national team and will assist the Head of WelFur and will work in the field of animal welfare. ABOUT THE POSITION Support in the implementation and management of the WelFur program on the European fox, mink and finnraccoon farms Report to: Head of WelFur Assisting on the day-to-day communication to fur farmers and other stakeholders about the WelFur program Collecting and updating data on the WelFur implementation Developing material for the internal and external website of Fur Europe Assisting the Fur Europe engagement in the IFASA congress and work around this network Managing and arranging WelFur advisor seminars and updates Attending relevant events or conferences and report to Fur Europe members ABOUT THE CANDIDATE Education and experience Bachelor or Master’s degree in agricultural science or similar; Proven knowledge about animal husbandry; Fluency in English is essential; fluency in other EU languages is welcome; Skills Quick learner, ability to grasp complex concepts rapidly; Strong research and analysis skills; Team-player, proactive and inquisitive mindset; Fully familiar with Microsoft software such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint. ABOUT THE SELECTION PROCESS You can send your CV and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org until Sunday, 9th February at midnight. Candidates will be informed by e-mail if they are accepted to the interview phase shortly after. Interviews are expected to take place in February 2020. Ideally, the contract will start on Monday, 2nd March, for the total duration of 6 or 12 months. The contract will be a convention d’immersion professionelle.
Sweden rejects ban on fur farming with reference to scientific facts
Jan 15 2020 - There is no scientific foundation for claiming poor animal welfare in the Swedish mink production, and Minister for Rural Affairs Jennie Nilsson has consequently rejected a ban on fur farming in Sweden. In a debate in the Swedish parliament today the Minister referred to the scientific recommendations of the Swedish Board of Agriculture, published in January 2018. This work was commissioned with the exact purpose of scrutinising the mink production for animal welfare issues and point to new legislation if needed. The Swedish Board of Agriculture did not find a reason to suggest new legislation on the basis of a scientific review of the current literature. Instead, the Board of Agriculture pointed out the improved animal welfare performance in the Swedish mink production since 2012, which has been fuelled by the Swedish fur farmers' own, voluntary health scheme. The industry initiative was also highlighted by the Minister, who stressed the scientific basis of the 2018 recommendations, as well as the importance of legislation based on scientific knowledge: "The Board of Agriculture relied on the Scientific Committee. As a responsible minister, this is an incredibly important tool in such [animal welfare] contexts. I think it is important to make decisions, that to the extent possible is based on scientific facts," she said. Other relevant welfare issues were likewise scrutinised by the Swedish experts. The 2018 study established that the farmed mink is domesticated and cannot be compared to its wild counterpart. Likewise, the study established that swimming water is not an essential need for farmed mink, and found the appearance of stereotypical behaviour is at a very low level, which furthermore cannot be associated with herds, but only individuals. It was further noted that more research is desirable, and the option to utilise the European-wide WelFur programme, that is based on the principles of the European Commission's Welfare Quality programme, for future welfare improvements in the Swedish fur production.