European Courts Cases

Very few decisions regarding animal welfare legislation have been given by EU Courts. Nonetheless, some of them are really important.


Court of Justice of the EU and General Court


Key Words: animal welfare during transport ; transport from the EU to non-EU countries ; control of resting time, logbook

Facts: Transport of live bovines by road from the Netherlands to Slovenia (exit point of the EU) and then by sea from Slovenia to Beyrouth. Export refunds were requested.

The transporter has given to the Slovenian authorities the logbook. Therefore, the Dutch authorities asked to an official EU veterinary controller to check in Beyrouth the welfare of the animals. This last one concluded that the Regulation 1/2005 was respected. However, the Dutch authorities decided to pass over this conclusion, and to ask for the reimbursement of the export refund + a penalty. The Dutch authorities based their decision on the fact that without having the journey log completed until the end of the travel, the controller wasn’t able to assess properly if the Regulation was respected.

Question: The main question is about the logbook, and the conflict between Regulation 1/2005 which plans that the logbook is mandatory until the exit point of the EU, and the Export refund regulation, together with the Zuchtvieh export caselaw which makes is mandatory until the foreign country of destination.

The Court is asked:

  • Is it mandatory to keep the logbook filled in until the foreign country of destination? (when no export refunds were asked)
  • If the logbook is not filled in until the foreign country of destination, can the competent authority in the departure country asked for reimbursement of the export refund + a penalty
  • Should the competent authority in the departure country automatically consider that there is no compliance when the logbook was not filled in until the foreign country of destination, despite a veterinary control stating the opposite?


The Court refuses to answer the first question, as it is not concerning the case, as here exports refunds were asked.

The Court estimates that the logbook has to be filled until the last country of destination, otherwise the control done can’t be efficient. Court suggests that photocopies of the logbook could be done.

It is up to the transporter to prove that the transport regulation was respected and not to the competent authority to prove the opposite. If the transporter can’t give the logbook, the competent authority has the right to ask for reimbursement + penalty, no matter if a veterinary inspection said the transport was ok. However, the Court don’t say that this should automatically considered as non-compliant, it is up to the competent authority to decide.


Key Words: animal welfare during transport ; transport from the EU to non-EU countries ; time or rest

Summary: in the case C-469/14 “Masterrind” (1), the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) has answered two questions asked by a German Court in the frame of a request for a preliminary ruling. 

The case in question involved a German company who, in 2011, sent 6 live Bovines from Germany (Hamburg) to Morocco, meaning a complete transport time of 30h30 in the EU, which was divided as follows: 1 hour of loading, 8h30 of travel, 1 hour break, 2 hours of travel, 10 hours break and 9 hours of travel resulting in a total of three travel periods and three breaks instead of  the two determined by EU Regulation 1/2005. The veterinarian at the starting point in Hamburg concluded that the transport plan conformed to the guidelines and approved the journey, allowing the payment of export refunds to the transporter, which were paid before the transfer occurred. The problem stems from the fact that the veterinarian at the EU exit point in France decided that the transport did not adhere to Regulation 1/2005 as it exceeded the maximum EU travel time permitted and as a consequence, the German financial authority in Hamburg asked for reimbursement of the export refund received.

The first question addressed to the Court aimed to clarify how to interpret the rule of 29 hours of travel in the transportation of bovines outlined by Regulation 1/2005. According to EU rules, the transport should happen as follows: 14 hours of travel, “at least” 1 hour of rest and 14 hours of travel, after which a resting time of 24 hours for the animals is required. In addition the Regulation also states that the transport time can be  extended by 2 hours, totalling an overall time of 31 hours, when it is in the interest of animal welfare because the end destination is close. In this case, the complete travel time (including rest time) exceeded the 29 hours but was below the 31 hours permitted as derogation on the condition that it is beneficial to the animals well-being. Moreover, the 10 hour break was to respect the mandatory resting time of the driver and not for the welfare of the animals.

Overturning a previous case on live transport of animals at the time of the previous transport legislation, the Court decided that the first objective of Regulation 1/2005 is to improve the welfare of animals during transport. Therefore, a resting time of 10 hours that doesn’t allow the animals to effectively rest violates this. The Court also ruled that, in this case, the limit of 29 hours was exceeded but not for the benefit of the animals wellbeing as permitted as derogation by the Regulation.

The Court however, decreed that the journey can be divided into several transport periods and resting times as long as they do not exceed 29 hours.

The second question addressed to the Court aimed to clarify the significance of a veterinary certificate and to determine if the German veterinary authority (country responsible for the payment of the export refund) was bound by the certificate completed by the French veterinary authority at the EU exit point. The German financial authority in Hamburg agreed that they were linked to the French certificate, and therefore have to request the return of the export refund delivered in advance, even if the German veterinary authority approved the transport. Following a previous case law, the ECJ stated that a veterinary certificate is not a binding document, but that strong evidence is needed to contradict it and should be brought, in particular, by the exporter contesting this veterinary certificate. However, in practice, a transporter cannot be blamed for animal welfare issues noticed by a veterinarian, as long as the EU animal welfare rules had been respected during transport. 

Judgment of the Court (Fifth Chamber) of 23 April 2015 Zuchtvieh-Export GmbH v Stadt Kempten, Case C‑424/13

Key Words: animal welfare during transport ; transport from the EU to non-EU countries ; time or rest

Summary: The European Court of Justice ruled that animal welfare requirements during transport have also to be respected when the transport is taking place outside of EU borders.

A German transporter wanted to transport cattle from Germany to Uzbekistan, crossing a part of the EU territory, but also third countries including Belarus, Russia and Uzbekistan. He wanted to respect EU welfare transport rules only until EU external border (Belarus) and not for the part of the journey taking place in Russia and Asia, representing for the animals a continuous travel time of 146 hours with no food, no water and no rest.

According to Regulation 1/2005 on the welfare of animals during transport, the organiser of such a transport has to submit to the national competent authority a logbook containing the details of the planned journey, including resting time. The German competent authority has rejected the logbook, for the reason that EU welfare transport rules were not respected. In a reference for a preliminary ruling, the German competent authority asked to the EU Court if EU transport rules can also apply outside of EU borders. 

In its judgment, the Court referred to the animal welfare principle of Article 13 to estimate that the scope of EU transport Regulation 1/2005 is not limited to transports taking place inside EU borders, but also covers transports starting from inside the EU territory.

The Court stated “the authority may require, among other things, changes to the arrangements for the intended  transport  in  order  to  ensure  that  it  will  pass  by  enough  resting  and  transfer  points  to indicate  that  the  transport  will  comply  with  the  requirements  as  to  watering  and  feeding  intervals and journey times and resting periods”.

Key Words: protection of calves ; definition of rearing/breeding

Summary: A Dutch farmer has been condemned by the authorities of the Netherlands to a decrease of 20% of its funding for not to having respected the requirement of the EU Directive 91/629/EEC regarding protection of calves. Indeed, in his breeding, calves were attached all the day which is infringing the Directive. The farmer was raising cows for Milk production and was arguing that the overmentionned directive was only relevant for veals bred for meat purpose.

Article 1 of the Directive id providing that it minimum requirement for the protection of calves should be applied for "calves confined for rearing and fattening".

EU Court of Justice said in this case for the very first time, that the spirit of Article 13 involve that the Directive 91/629/EEC is also applying for veals used for milk production.

Key Words: seal products, inuits, traditionnal hunt, seal regulation

Summary: ​This is a plea of legality intended by several seal hunting and seal products retailers association, against the Regulation (EC) n° 1007/2009 on trade of seal products. A first complaint had already been introduced, but rejected. This is a second recourse.
The applicants put forward three main arguments. The first and second concerned the choice of the "internal market" as a legal basis, namely the harmonization of conditions of sale of seal products. The applicants submitted that the purpose of the regulation is the protection of animals and not the functioning of the internal market, and as animal welfare is not a legal basis in European law, there has been a violation of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality . The Court rejected this first argument, recalling that "the protection of the welfare of animals is a legitimate objective of general interest."
As a third argument, the applicants invoke the protection of human rights, including the protection of indigenous peoples and their right to be heard and the right to property. The Court also rejects this argument, stating that the impugned Regulation provides exceptions to the prohibition, for seal products derived from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit communities and other indigenous communities for subsistence.
The appeal is therefore dismissed.

Key Words: Pet Passport, identification and registration, lifetime document

Summary: These references for a preliminary ruling concern the interpretation of Articles 3(b), 4(2), 5 and the second paragraph of Article 17 of Regulation (EC) No 998/2003, of Commission Decision 2003/803/EC (establishing a model passport for the intra-Community movements of dogs, cats and ferrets)and of Article 1 of Directive 98/34/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations and of rules on Information Society services.

The references have been made in the course of proceedings between, firstly, the Vlaamse Dierenartsenvereniging VZW (‘the VDV’) and Mr Janssens (Cases C‑42/10 and C-45/10) and the Belgische Staat, and secondly, the VDV and the Belgische Staat (Case C-57/10), seeking annulment of the Royal Decree of 21 September 2004 regulating the veterinary control of rabies, of the Royal Decree of 28 May 2004 on the identification and registration of dogs and of the Royal Decree of 5 May 2004 on the model and methods of distribution of passports for the intra‑Community movement of cats and ferrets.

Key Words: infringement of the Zoo Directive

Summary: Spain is sued for not having adopted the zoo license system (created by the Zoo Directive) in the communities of Aragon, Asturies, Canaries, Cantabrie and Castilla y León and for not having closed zoos which have no license. 
Argument: Spain tried to argue that the Zoo directive has been transposed in Spain in time, and that Spain has no responsibility if the Spanish autonomous communities have not fulfilled all the requirements of the Directive. 
Result: The Court condemned Spain for infringement.

Key Words: infringement of the Zoo Directive

Facts: Germany is sued for not having transposed the Zoo Directive in all Länder but only in Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia
Argument: Germany pretends that the transposition process was on going but it’s taking more time due to the federal structure of Germany
Result: The Court condemned Germany for infringement.

Key Words: infringement of the Zoo Directive

Facts: No transposition in the delay of the Zoo Directive, and no transposition in the delay of the reasoned opinion
Argument: Italy didn’t deny the facts
Result: The Court condemned Italy for infringement.

Key Words: Vaccination, Foot-and-mouth disease, value of animal welfare in the EU

Summary: By order of 26 April 2001, received at the Court on 27 April 2001, the College van Beroep voor het bedrijfsleven (Administrative Court for Trade and Industry) referred to the Court for a preliminary ruling under Article 234 EC two questions on the validity of Article 13 of Council Directive 85/511/EEC of 18 November 1985 introducing Community measures for the control of foot-and-mouth disease (OJ 1985 L 315, p. 11), as amended by Council Directive 90/423/EEC of 26 June 1990 (OJ 1990 L 224, p. 13) (hereinafter Directive 85/511), and of Commission Decision 2001/246/EC of 27 March 2001 laying down the conditions for the control and eradication of foot-and-mouth disease in the Netherlands in application of Article 13 of Directive 85/511/EEC (OJ 2001 L 88, p. 21), as amended by Commission Decision 2001/279/EC of 5 April 2001 (OJ 2001 L 96, p. 19) (hereinafter Decision 2001/246).

Those questions have been raised in proceedings between Ms Jippes, residing at Yde (Netherlands), and the Afdeling Groningen van de Nederlandse Vereniging tot Bescherming van Dieren and the Afdeling Assen en omstreken van de Nederlandse Vereniging tot Bescherming van Dieren (Groningen section and Assen and environs section of the Netherlands Association for the Protection of Animals) (hereinafter the appellants), on the one hand, and the Minister van Landbouw, Natuurbeheer en Visserij (Netherlands Minister for Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries, hereinafter the Minister), on the other, concerning the vaccination against foot-and-mouth disease of animals belonging to Ms Jippes.

The Court will conclude: "Ensuring the welfare of animals does not form part of the objectives of the Treaty, as defined in Article 2 EC, and no such requirement is mentioned in Article 33 EC, which sets out the objectives of the common agricultural policy. As to the Protocol on protection and welfare of animals, adopted at the same time as the Treaty of Amsterdam and annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community, it is apparent from its very wording that it does not lay down any well-defined general principle of Community law which is binding on the Community institutions. Although it provides that full regard must be had to the welfare requirements of animals in the formulation and implementation of the Community's policy, it limits that obligation to four specific spheres of Community activity and provides that the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States must be respected as regards, in particular, religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage. Nor is it possible to infer any principle of general application from the 1976 European Convention on the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes, approved on behalf of the Community by Decision 78/923, which does not impose any clear, precisely defined and unqualified obligation, or from Declaration No 24 on the protection of animals, annexed to the Final Act of the Treaty on European Union, which has been superseded by the Amsterdam Protocol and the wording of which is even less binding than that of the Protocol. Similarly, Article 30 EC refers to the life of … animals only by way of exception to the prohibition of measures having equivalent effect, and there is nothing in the Court's case-law to indicate that the Court has accepted any plea of justification based on that provision. Lastly, although there exist various provisions of secondary legislation referring to animal welfare, they likewise contain no indication that the need to ensure animal welfare is to be regarded as a general principle of Community law. The Court has however held on several occasions that the interests of the Community include the health and protection of animals, ruling that efforts to attain the objectives of the common agricultural policy cannot disregard requirements of public interest, such as the protection of the health and life of animals, which the Community institutions must take into account in exercising their powers. The Protocol on protection and welfare of animals seeks to reinforce the obligation to take the health and protection of animals into consideration by providing that full regard must be had to the welfare requirements of animals in the formulation and implementation of the Community's policy, particularly in relation to the common agricultural policy, whilst at the same time recognising that differences currently exist between the legislation of the respective Member States and the various sentiments harboured within those Member States. Fulfilment of that obligation can be verified, in particular, in the context of a review of the proportionality of the measure. Bearing in mind the wide discretionary power enjoyed by the Community legislature in matters concerning the common agricultural policy, the legality of a measure adopted in that sphere can be affected only if the measure is manifestly inappropriate in terms of the objective which the competent institution is seeking to pursue; moreover, since the legality of a Community act cannot depend on retrospective assessment of its efficacy, where the Community legislature is obliged to assess the future effects of rules to be adopted and those effects cannot be accurately foreseen, its assessment is open to criticism only if it appears manifestly incorrect in the light of the information available to it at the time of the adoption of the rules in question. The ban on preventive vaccination imposed by Article 13 of Directive 85/511 introducing Community measures for the control of foot-and-mouth disease does not exceed the limits of what is appropriate and necessary in order to attain the objective pursued by the Community rules. When instituting the policy of non-vaccination, the Council carried out a global assessment of the advantages and drawbacks of the system to be established and that policy, corresponding to the recommendations of the International Office of Epizootics and the practice followed by numerous countries worldwide, was not on any view manifestly inappropriate in the light of the objective of controlling foot-and-mouth disease. In addition, the ban on a general system of preventive vaccination does not preclude recourse, where the circumstances so require, to selective emergency vaccination in accordance with the requirements of a particular situation".

Key Words: protection of calves, veal crates, national welfare rules stricter to EU rules, Council of Europe 

Summary: The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and Compassion in World Farming Limited (CIWF) ask to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to restrict, on the basis of Article 36 of the Treaty, the export of veal calves to other Member States which still use veal crate system. Indeed, UK legislation prohibits the use of veal crate system, on the basis of the Convention 087 of the Council of Europe (and the Recommendation concerning calves) and on the basis of the Directive 98/58/EC. The Minister refused and the RSPCA and CIWF brought a proceeding against him before the High Court. The High Court decided to stay the proceedings and to refer to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.



European Court of Human Rights


Key Words: stray dogs, access to information on population management

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has given a judgment regarding Bulgarian stray dogs and the right to acccess to information of Animal Welfare NGOs.

Summary of Facts:

In the case Guseva v/ Bulgaria, the applicant, an animal welfare NGO is complaining about the refusal of the municipality of Vidin to provide information about an agreement concluded between the municipality and the municipal company “Cleanliness” EOOD, for the collecting of stray animals on the territory of Vidin municipality.

Facing the refusal of the mayor of the municipality, the organisation has started a legal complaint.

One year later, the same organisation asked to the municipality of Vidin information concerning the annual statistics for 2001 and 2002 about animals held in an animal shelter called “Municipal Care". Once again, the municipality refused to provide the requested information.

In a third demand, few months laters, the animal welfare organisation asked for information regarding public procurement procedure which had been organised by the mayor and aimed at reducing the number of stray dogs in Vidin. The applicant wanted to know the number of the organisations which had tendered for a contract with the municipality, which ones had passed the pre-selection stage, and – in respect of those who have – the following information: the type and number of qualified staff they employed; the infrastructure and facilities they had for humane catching and transportation of dogs; the proof they had presented for their capacity to deliver quality services; and, the price they asked for providing the services. Once again, the municipality refused to provide the requested information.

The procedure in front of the Court

After several complaints and legal procedures with no real result, the applicants decided to make an appeal in front of the Court of Human Rights for infringement of its right to information and to its right to obtain an effective remedy.

The Court concludes to the violation by Bulgaria of Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 13 (Right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention of Human Rights. The State of Bulgaria will have to cover the applicant's justice fees and also to pay a remedy of 5,000€.

The Court based its judgment on the fact that information regarding the management of stray animals by the public authorities are information of general interest, meaning that anyone should be able to acceed to this information.

Key Words: stray dogs, duty of the State to protect their citizen, effectiveness of stray dog population control methods used

Summary: The plaintiff is dead before the judgment and the procedure has been continued by her husband. When she was 71 years old, she has been attacked and bitten in front of her house in Bucharest by seven stray dogs. As a result of the attack, the plaintiff has been hospitalized for four days and a treatment for life has been prescribed to her. She could never take the treatment which was too expensive, and consequently became disabled. She complained in front of a Romanian Court but her claim has been dropped because the plaintiff couldn’t pay the justice fees for complain. And when the plaintiff had finally succeeded to have a judgment, the judgment was cancelled for procedural reasons. The Court has estimated that the problem of stray dogs in Romania is still not resolved, even if since the attack of Ms Stoicescu, Romanian authorities have change some legal text in order to solve the problem of stray dogs.Nonetheless, the Court noticed that according to Romanian authorities, in 2009, 9,178 persons, including 1,678 children have been bitten by stray dogs. According to ASA report (a public institution), 38 % of stray dogs who have been captured in Bucharest in 2009, were infected by leptospirose. In 2010, on the 27th of April, there were still between 40,000 and 100,000 stray dogs in Bucharest, and only during the first two months of the year 2010, more than 2,000 people have been bitten. In beginning of 2011, a woman has been bitten to death by stray dogs. The prefect of Bucharest said that he has launched a project for killing these stray dogs in certain circumstances. ECHR Court has concluded to a  Violation of Article 8 (respect of private life): local authorities haven’t take all necessary measures to avoid the attack, Violation of Article 6§1 (access to court): the first national complaints of the plaintiff were dropped. A satisfaction of 9,000€ has been allocated to the plaintiff (according to Article 41)

Key Words: ritual slaughter, freedom of religion, animal health and welfare

Summary: The Jewish liturgical association Cha'are Shalom Ve Tsedek is complaining against France for not have been allowed to access to slaughterhouses to perform kashrut ritual slaughter.  The association pretended that this refusal if infringing Article 9 of the Convention regarding the freedom of religion.

The European Court of Human Rights stated that there has been no violation of Article 9 of the Convention.