Live plucking/gathering feathers from live geese


18 December 2012    

Karl-Heinz Florenz (PPE)


With regard to live plucking and gathering feathers from live geese, Directive 98/58/EC concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes states that it must be ensured that animals are not caused any unnecessary pain, suffering or injury. The EFSA published a report in 2010 concluding that the procedure could be performed without causing pain to the birds, but that painful plucking of feathers was unavoidable under currently typical conditions. It therefore recommended introducing a control system to ensure that only moulting feathers are gathered from live geese. The recommendation of the Standing Committee of the European Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes of the Council of Europe, on domestic geese, states that ‘feathers, including down, shall not be plucked from live birds’. However, the number of cases of animal cruelty coming to light is constantly increasing (particularly in Hungary and Poland).

Could the Commission answer the following questions on this issue:

1. What is the Commission's view, in general, of the legal situation regarding live plucking? What is its assessment of the various legal instruments? Under what circumstances is it permissible to gather feathers from live geese?
2. Which EU Member States have signed the European Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes? How has implementation been monitored to date? What information has been gathered regarding the procedures used and inspections?
3. What further steps has the Commission taken following the EFSA's report and its recommendation that a control system should be introduced? How does the Commission propose to ensure that European consumers are informed about how goose feathers are obtained, or have the opportunity to access such information? Are there plans for a European quality system?
4. What further steps does the Commission plan to take to ensure that the situation finally improves, particularly in Hungary and Poland?
5. What is the Commission's assessment of the initiative currently being pursued by European non-governmental organisations to ban live plucking/gathering feathers from live geese completely?

Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

13 February 2013    

The Commission would refer to its answer to Written Question E 11289/2012(1) regarding the legal situation on plucking/harvesting feathers from live geese and the steps taken by the Commission to monitor the situation.

25 Member States signed and ratified the European Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes; the detailed list is available on the website of the Council of Europe(2). However, since the European Union signed and ratified the Convention, the Convention and its subsequent recommendations are part of EC law. As such they are legally binding for all Member States as well as for the Union.

According to the European Down and Feather Association, 98% of the down and feathers processed by their industry is collected after the slaughter of birds.

In addition, the Commission, following the adoption of the EU strategy for the protection and welfare of animals 2012-2015(3), is presently reflecting on how information to consumers on animal welfare can be improved.

The Commission acknowledges the initiative of several European animal welfare NGOs asking to ban also the practice of gathering feathers from live geese. However, the Commission considers that progress on this issue can be better achieved by improved enforcement of the current EU legislation in the few Member States concerned, and by increased awareness of all actors on this issue.

(3)    COM(2012) 6 final.