Brussels, 04 Oct 2006
REPORT on a Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010
EXPLANATORY STATEMENT Introduction
It is the aim of all policy on the protection and welfare of animals (hereinafter referred to as animal protection) to treat animals as fellow creatures, taking account of their specific needs. The so-called five freedoms, which include, for example, keeping animals in conditions appropriate to the respective species, providing them with adequate feed and drinking water and preventing pain, injury and disease, provide a basis for current animal protection policy.
An integrated animal protection policy must, in addition to the protection of livestock, also cover wild animals, domestic animals and other animals entrusted to the care of humans.
In recent years, the European Community and its Member States and the Council of Europe have continuously extended their animal protection legislation and stepped up research efforts in this area. At Community level, minimum standards have been laid down for animal testing and for breeding, farming, transport and slaughter of livestock as well as detailed rules on calves, pigs and laying hens. A Council decision on the Commission proposal on minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production ( COM(2005) 0221 ), which was already approved by the European Parliament in principle in February 2006 (A6-0017/2006), is still awaited.
Not least on the basis of the Protocol on animal protection annexed to the Amsterdam Treaty, which requires the Community to pay regard to animal protection when formulating and implementing relevant policies, Europe has developed a very high level of animal protection, which compares very well at the international level. Hand-in-hand with efforts at state level, business and the research sector have also significantly stepped up their efforts to protect animals in connection with the use of animals for scientific purposes. There have been significant improvements in recent years in the keeping of animals for scientific research purposes. In addition, the research sector and business have developed a large number of alternatives to animal testing in order to translate the 3Rs principle into practice.
In the area of food production and food trade, there are different animal protection-related certification and labelling systems, which in some cases guarantee a level of animal protection significantly higher than the legally required minimum protection.
New techniques and methods or intensive animal farming are not detrimental per se, but can also create new opportunities for improving animal protection.
Scientific developments, changes in techniques and methods and new knowledge about the behaviour and needs of animals mean that the context within which animal protection policy is conducted is constantly changing. The Community's policy in this area is required to continually take account of these new requirements.
At the international level, initial efforts are being made to strengthen animal protection, for example within the framework of the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health). However, these efforts are nowhere near sufficient. To date, for example, virtually no rules have been laid down within the WTO (World Trade Organization). International discussions on avoiding or reducing animal testing in connection with product authorisation have so far not achieved the desired success.
Animal protection can entail costs. Consumers expect the Community to implement high animal protection standards, but, because of ignorance or lack of confidence in the implementation of existing standards, are still all too rarely prepared to bear the additional costs.
The objective of the Community Action Plan on the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2006-2010 is to bring together Community activities previously spread across different Commission services, councils and policy areas and to structure them in accordance with uniform guidelines.
The Action Plan is divided into five areas of activity:
1. upgrading existing minimum standards for animal protection and welfare (hereinafter referred to as animal protection),
2. research on animal protection and application of the 3Rs principle,
3. labelling and standardised animal protection indicators,
4. greater involvement of the public and of animal keepers/ handlers,
5. international efforts.
The Commission intends to further develop the existing minimum standards and, on the basis of agreements reached at Council of Europe level, to propose minimum standards for other species of animals.
Existing research efforts are to be continued and extended. Based on close cooperation between industry, those responsible and the Commission, an Action Plan for implementing the 3Rs principle is already to be submitted this year.
The Commission intends to step up its efforts to establish standardised animal protection indicators. The aim of such indicators is to make the level of animal protection in Europe more transparent, to facilitate monitoring and to help prepare for the introduction of EU animal protection labelling.
Consumer information and training of animal keepers/ handlers are to be extended, and a communication strategy drawn up.
The animal protection strategy additionally has an international dimension. The Commission intends to continue to make efforts to incorporate animal protection into multilateral and bilateral trade and veterinary agreements.
Certain specialist tasks of the Community in the area of animal protection are to be concentrated in the hands of a European centre or laboratory for animal protection.
The Action Plan represents an important intermediate step with regard to the Community's animal protection policy. The combining together and integrating of Community and Member State tasks, on the basis of the Action Plan, is necessary in order to make further progress in the area of animal protection. On the basis of an assessment of progress achieved, the Action Plan should be taken forward after 2010.
Parliament is very largely in agreement with the line taken in the Action Plan. It is only necessary to draw attention to a few points:
Animal protection is an issue that concerns everyone. Not only the Commission, but also the Member States, associations, business and the research sector need to contribute, within the scope of their respective responsibilities and the possibilities open to them, to implementing the Action Plan. Animal protection will only be credible if it extends to all animals.. It must not be restricted solely to animals used for research purposes and in agriculture.
Animal protection policy can only be further developed in cooperation with all those responsible. To that end, an open dialogue is needed at all levels.
Animal protection is an important Community goal. It must be taken into account at an early stage in the planning of relevant policies and measures. Moreover, however important animal protection is, the Community must not disregard the interplay of different factors or possible conflicts of aims. The impact on jobs and location factors should be taken into account in accordance with the Lisbon Strategy. Bureaucracy must be kept to a minimum, and where necessary aid must be granted to help adapt to new standards.
The immediate development of a communication strategy is a priority. Animal protection can only be effective if all those affected and consumers at home and abroad are adequately informed of the level of animal protection in Europe and its benefits for animals and products.
Attention should be paid to ensuring balanced communication; discriminating against certain kinds of farming without giving objective reasons would be counterproductive.
Proper training of animal handlers at all levels is in many cases more important for animal protection than new technical provisions. This particularly requires action by the Member States.
The labelling system which it is aimed to introduce must be transparent and easily comprehensible, as otherwise the message will not get across to consumers. Simple information carried by all products sold in Europe on compliance with minimum standards is preferable - subject to taking account of special cases, for example eggs - to more clearly graded systems. This would at the same time encourage implementation of these minimum requirements in other parts of the world. More far-reaching animal protection measures taken by individual producers could, however, additionally be recognised through participation in special quality programmes. Processed products should be included if possible.
The Commission and the Member States must ensure, by applying existing standards in a uniform way and strictly monitoring compliance, including in the area of animal testing, that confidence in the level of animal protection achieved in Europe is not undermined by those who exploit the system.
The success of the Action Plan can only be ensured by making available adequate financial resources for research in all areas. Knowledge of the behaviour and needs of animals is very limited. Labelling and animal protection standards must also be further developed, as well as alternatives to animal testing.
It is important to continue existing research projects and technology platforms where necessary and to strengthen research in areas of priority importance for implementing the Action Plan. The transition from the Sixth to the Seventh Research Framework Programme should involve as little red tape as possible, in order not to jeopardise research work under way which is vital to the implementation of this Action Programme. An example of this is the 'PredTox' project, which is being conducted jointly by academic institutions and industry, and which is aimed at improving the predictive ability of alternative testing methods and providing appropriate data and databases.
In this context, it remains important to adapt Directive 86/609/EEC in line with current knowledge and to continue to harmonise rules on animal testing in the Community.
European animal protection policy can only be successful if it has an additional international dimension. European producers must not be at a disadvantage in the face of competition from producers from regions with lower animal protection standards.
There is not as yet, however, a very clear consensus at the international level on animal protection. Efforts by the Commission to bring animal protection to a greater extent within the OIE framework, and above all within the WTO framework, should be significantly stepped up. Since the Commission submitted its 2002 Communication ( COM(2002) 626 final) on animal welfare legislation on farmed animals in third countries and the implications for the EU, the situation has scarcely changed. It is essential that animal protection is recognised as a non-trade concern and that animal protection-related support is recognised as qualifying, unreservedly, for inclusion in the 'green box'.
In order for substantial progress to be achieved in the area of animal testing, alternatives to animal testing in connection with product authorisation must also be accepted at the international level.
Imports of dog and cat fur and seal products into the Community must be banned as quickly as possible. The Commission has repeatedly signalled such a ban, but nothing has happened to date.