11 December 2012
Ashley Fox (ECR)
A constituent of mine has recently drawn my attention to the issue of the live plucking of goose feathers, most notably in Hungary, for use in down clothing and bedding. Birds experience pain when their feathers are plucked from them whilst they are still alive, leaving open wounds. When the feathers grow back, the birds often face further rounds of plucking.
1. To what extent is this practice banned under EU legislation?
2. What action is the Commission taking to ensure that Hungary complies with its animal welfare responsibilities under Directive 98/58/EC?
3. What action has the Commission taken, or does it intend to take, with regard to the practice of live plucking in the EU in response to the 2010 Scientific Opinion of the European Food Safety Authority on the practice of harvesting (collecting) feathers from live geese for down production?
Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission
Plucking feathers from live geese is forbidden by EU legislation on animal welfare. Article 23 (3) of the recommendation of the Council of Europe on geese(1) states that ‘feathers, including down, shall not be plucked from live birds’. However, the practice of harvesting feathers from live geese during the moulting period is allowed in the EU.
Upon request from the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)(2) issued a scientific opinion on the practice of harvesting feathers from live geese for down production. The opinion concludes that removing feathers from live geese can be carried out without causing pain, suffering or injury to the birds, if feathers are gathered. In addition, the opinion provides for several animal-based indicators that can be used by official inspectors and producers to monitor and minimise the potential negative impact of harvesting feathers from live birds.
Member States are primarily responsible for the implementation of EU welfare legislation. The Food and Veterinary Office of the Commission’s Health and Consumers Directorate General carries out on-the-spot audits in the Member States regarding the implementation of EU welfare legislation. An audit carried out in Hungary in September 2011 examined the system of welfare controls in farms keeping geese, including the aspects of feathers' harvesting. The report and the action plan of the Hungarian competent authorities to address its recommendations are available at the following link: http://ec.europa.eu/food/fvo/rep_details_en.cfm?rep_id=2802.