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Animal welfare on the EU menu

November 23, 2006 – 8:04 AM

The head of the [Swiss] Federal Veterinary Office is pushing for further progress on animal welfare at an international gathering at the Council of Europe.

Hans Wyss says agreement on minimum standards of animal care will be a target at the two-day meeting, which begins in Strasbourg on Thursday.

Organised by the Council of Europe’s animal welfare unit and the European Union, with the support of the World Organisation for Animal Health, the workshop is examining how current laws and standards on animal welfare across Europe are implemented.

“It’s important to see that this is an initiative from three different organisations,” Wyss said. “This shows that there is an international will to work on this topic.”

A central subject at the workshop will be the gap between legislation meant to assure the proper treatment of animals across Europe and actual practice – from care for animals to their transport.

“For us in Switzerland one of the main goals of our new legislation is to close this gap,” Wyss said.

Last December the Swiss parliament passed a tighter law on animal protection which aims to protect the dignity and well-being of animals. People who abandon animals or abuse them will in future face prosecution.

“We [in Switzerland] are on the right track, but of course there is still a lot of work to be done enforcing the regulations and improving education and information.”

Challenges

The workshop is being attended by scientific and legal experts from 50 countries and by representatives of civil society involved in the protection of animal welfare.

Participants will be able to exchange ideas on best practice and discuss how to overcome social, legal, economic and scientific obstacles that can hinder the effective implementation of animal welfare legislation.

For Wyss, finding an agreement on minimum standards is one of the major challenges due to the demands of different societies.

“I can honestly say that we have a good standard – animal welfare is an important issue in our society – but for me personally what I think is important is finding a better solution to the international transport of animals.

“There is no reason to transport live animals over hundreds and hundreds of kilometres to slaughterhouses when there are slaughterhouses all over Europe and the technical possibilities then to transport the frozen meat.”

Cooperation

The workshop will also address the role of international organisations in promoting and developing animal welfare, the added value of transnational cooperation and ways to improve such cooperation.

“The question of transport time is a good solution for our country and it could be a good solution for international standards,” Wyss said.

“Switzerland has done a lot concerning animal welfare over the past 25 years and at the workshop we can present our experience in the issue.”

swissinfo, Thomas Stephens

CONTEXT

Last December the Swiss parliament passed a stricter law on animal protection which aims to protect the dignity and well-being of animals. People who abandon animals, harm their dignity or abuse them will in future face prosecution.

Regarding the transporting of animals, the law limits the duration of the journey to six hours from the loading point. It also forbids the importation of cat and dog skins and related products.

The castration of piglets without anaesthetic will be banned from 2009, unless an alternative more humane method is developed in the meantime.

Ritual slaughtering remains illegal. The import of halal and kosher meat to respond to the needs of the Muslim and Jewish communities will still be allowed.

KEY FACTS

There are an estimated 17 million animals, including more than seven million pets, in Switzerland.
1.3 million cats and 400,000 dogs live in Swiss households.
About 475,000 animals are used annually for scientific purposes.

RELATED SITES

World Organisation for Animal Health (http://www.oie.int/eng/en_index.htm)
Council of Europe – animal welfare workshop (http://www.coe.int/T/E/Legal_affairs/Legal_co-operation/Biological_safety%2C_use_of_animals/seminar/)
Swiss Committee on Animal Experiments (German, French, Italian) (http://www.admin.ch/ch/d/cf/ko/index_10077.html)
Federal Veterinary Office (http://www.bvet.admin.ch/tierschutz/index.html?lang=en)
Swiss Animal Protection (http://www.animal-protection.net/)

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