Transport of live animals in the European Union

In this EU Petition, the Animals’ Angels seeks revision of Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations. According to the petitioner, every year millions of live animals are transported to abattoirs under unacceptable conditions in the EU and many animals die during transport. The petitioner asks the European Parliament to arrange for rules to be adopted imposing a limit of 8 hours’ transport for animals being taken to abattoirs.

More in here.


Minimum Standards for the Protection of Farm Rabbits

 After receiving the report of the Rapporteur Stefan Eck on the minimum standards for the protection of farm rabbits, the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) discussed recommendations for the adoption of the new EU legislation.

"Most rabbits kept for meat consumption are held in so-called 'battery cages'. The small space provided per rabbit makes it impossible for the animals to satisfy their species-specific needs. Moreover, due to the lack of stimulus, behavioral disorders often appear such as stereotyped movements, self-mutilation and even cannibalism. Loud noise that results from the stereotyped jumping of rabbits in their cages is an additional disturbance, as rabbits are inherently noise-sensitive animals."

The initiative is ment to encourage the European Commission to present an ambitious draft legislative proposal on animal welfare in rabbit farming aiming to close the existing lopholes and taking on board the recommendation of the European Parliament

More in here.


Final vote of the Animal Health Law


FOUR PAWS welcomes this new legislation as a first step to establish EU mandatory identification and registration of companion animals

Brussels, 08.03.2016. On 8th March 2016, the Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on transmissible animal diseases and amending and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health (“Animal Health Law”) was voted in the European Parliament by a broad majority. The text initially introduced in 2013 by the European Commission, has undergone significant changes, and was massively commented for the absence of animal welfare provisions. In particular, FOUR PAWS initiated a campaign entitled “Wild? Me?” two years ago in order to change the critical definition contained in this legislation, which was aiming to consider domestic animals as wild animals when they have no owner or are abandoned.

Continue reading Final vote of the Animal Health Law


Final debate and vote on the Animal Health Law

On 7.03.2016 at 18h:00 the Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on transmissible animal diseases and amending and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health, which was well-known as the Animal Health Law is moving to the next and last EU legislative step: the final debate and vote. 

Continue reading Final debate and vote on the Animal Health Law


The EU Parliament promotes healthy food in schools

The agriculture committee at the European Parliament agreed on promoting the healthy eating habits is schools, as a result of boosting trend of eating processed food and decreasing level of the consumption of fruit and vegetables among youth.

The main goal to achieve is not only introducing the tightest legal standards of food served to children and teenagers at schools (e. g. artificial flavour enhancers and added sweeteners will be completely banned now), but foremost increasing the agriculture awareness and good eating habits among children. Organising farm visits with tasting the organic food and local specialities are just a few possibilities offered to the Member States to encourage the youth to start eating consciously.

Presently, the agreed text concerning getting the special EU funding for this aim is waiting for the Parliament’s approval in March or April 2016. It is worth highlighting that the amount of donation is 150 million euro per year, which will be divided fairly between the EU member states.

You can read more about the MEPs initiative on the healthy eating here:


VIER PFOTEN is also glad to inform you that the new EU policy about the promotion of the healthy eating is completely coherent with one of the VIER PFOTEN’s projects. You can read more about our initiative “Friendly food”, which stands for the good for health, animals and climate, here:



2nd EU Conference on the welfare of dogs and cats involved in commercial practices

VIER PFOTEN/ FOUR PAWS was partner of this conference organized by the Representation of the German State of Baden-Württemberg together with TASSO and Eurogroup for Animals. FOUR PAWS enjoyed the event to launch the first edition of the newly born companion animals’ responsible ownership magazine: CAROmag (1).


On 12th November 2015 was held the EU second conference the welfare of dogs and cats in Europe. Whereas the first one held in November 2013 focused on the welfare of all dogs and cats (2), this new conference targeted the welfare implications related to the commercial breeding and trade of dogs and cats in Europe.

It was attended by more than 120 participants from EU institutions, national ministries, permanent representations to the EU, veterinary services, breeder associations and NGOs.

The Head of the Animal Welfare Unit from the DG SANTE of the European Commission, Dr. Andrea Gavinelli, presented the first outcomes of the EU study on dogs and cats conducted in 12 EU member states last year (3). The study highlighted dogs and cats trade represents an annual revenue estimated at 1.3 billion euros. In particular, the import of dogs is estimated at approximately 21 million euros (2014) and cats at 3 million euros (2014). The most surprising fact is that only 13% of purchased companion animals come from professional breeders. Dr Gavinelli emphasized that several European countries, such as Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary or Spain even have no legal definition of breeder.

All the speakers have underlined the lack of traceability of dogs and cats in the EU, resulting in irresponsible commercial practices and animal suffering, especially with the booming of the online trade of companion animals. The EU Commission itself recognized that there was inconsistency in the data registered in the TRACES system related to dog and cat movement, proving the fraud and the black market in this area.

Identification and Registration of all dogs and cats were pointed out by most of the speakers as the only sustainable solution to put an end to the companion animal suffering exposed during this conference by both animal welfare organisations and veterinary services. MEP Janusz Wojciechowski also suggested to subsidise the protection of dogs and cats, which would only require about 0.01% of the total EU budget. He also suggested to promote the adoption of dogs as well as to introduce mandatory sterilization of companion animals in order to minimize the problem of stray animals and the dissemination of zoonoses.

The conclusion of this conference were hold by a representant of the future Dutch presidency of the EU who estimated that in order to protect companion animals better, the EU Commission, the EU Parliament, the stakeholders, the NGOs, the EU Member States and the animal welfare organizations need to work together.

Since 2010, VIER PFOTEN/ FOUR PAWS is calling for a EU mandatory identification and registration of all dogs and cats in Europe through compatible databases to reach the goal of responsible ownership, in line with Art. 13 TFEU. In particular, VIER PFOTEN/ FOUR PAWS, together with the EU Commission, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale dell'Abruzzo e del Molise "Giuseppe Caporale" and the Advisory Board on Cat Diseases has established the CAROdog ( and CAROcat ( projects, as well as an EU Canine and Feline Traceability Experts Group in order to demonstrate the feasibility and necessity of a EU-wide identification and registration system in the frame of EU competences and stakeholders’ interests. Moreover, VIER PFOTEN/ FOUR PAWS has already exposed all the suffering resulting from unscrupulous breeding and trade of animals within several video investigation, mainly lead in Eastern European Countries (4). The organization has also raised awareness in 2014 on the online trade of dogs and cats through collaboration with Ebay classified ads Germany and the establishment of the website

(1) Please find here the CAROmag in PDF format.

(2) FOUR PAWS was also partner of this very first EU Conference on dogs and cats entitled ““Building a Europe that cares for companion animals” (28.10.2013). See

(3) The full results should be officially published by the EU Commission before the end of the year

(4) See the Illegal Puppy Trade Report of 2014 here

Summary of the event

20151112_163243 1Dr. Andrea Gavinelli (Head of the Animal Welfare Unit from DG Sante, European Commission) presented the outcomes of the EU study conducted in 12 EU member states last year. He highlighted that “in the EU there are 60.8 million dogs and 66.5 million cats, with an annual revenue estimated at 1.3 billion euros. The import of dogs is estimated at approximately 21 million euros (2014) and cats at 3 million euros (2014)”. The most surprising  fact is that only 13% of purchased pets come from professional breeders! But how can we manage to solve this increasing problem when there are still several European countries, such as: Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary or Spain, that haven't specified the legal definition of a professional breeder?!

Dr Claudia Veith (Delegate Representative of the Veterinarian Chamber of Baden-Württemberg) recognised that the 

non-professional breeders are only generating a profit from selling dogs and cats and they  follow the rule to “produce as many litters as possible and to even breed dogs with genetic diseases”. As a result, dogs suffer from chronic illnesses, which require costly medical treatments!


Sophie Duthoit, the EU Legal Research Officer at VIER PFOTEN’s European Policy Office in Brussels, contrasted the large difference in profit-making of the trade of dogs and cats between professional and non-professional breeders. According to data from France, professional breeders spend about 762 euros per puppy, whereas non-professionals spend less than 260 euros, which means that he or she could sell the puppy for much less (about 361 euros instead of 1662 euros). The greatest difference in cost stems from providing medical treatment (vaccination, basic care, qualify food) and fulfilling legal practices (registration and identification, pet passport, breeding certificate and taxes), not to mention breeding costs. For example, in France, the government loses a tremendous amount of income due to the illegal trade of  companion animals, estimated at 312 million euros annually.

20151112_123904 1Eric van Tilburgh (Head of the Animal Welfare Division of the Flemish Government) noted that Belgium has banned the sale of imported dogs/ cats as well as the online listing of  authorised breeders.

Reineke Hameleers (Director of Eurogroup for Animals) said that, “In Europe, there is a serious lack of traceability implementation of  responsible commercial practices as well as responsible ownership”.


received_10207428922176697MEP Janusz Wojciechowski suggested to subsidise the protection of dogs and cats, which would only require  about 0.01% of the total EU budget. He pointed out that “There are no special regulations for dogs and cats and no legal basis for intervening in this matter”. Some of the possible solutions are to promote the adoption of dogs as well as introduce the sterilization of companion animals in order to minimise the problem of  stray animals and the dissemination of zoonoses diseases.

Dr Felix Wildschutz (Council Presidency of Luxembourg) highlighted that there is not a mandatory identification and registration of dogs and cats or an official certificate and trace notification in Luxembourg. He mentioned “the need of the competent authority to inform the competent authority of the country of dispatch about the non-compliance detected”.

The conclusion of the day


Dr. Jouke Knol (Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the EU) had heard „about the good and bad practices concerning animal welfare, but the conclusion is that many of us cope with the same problems, and generally people care about pets, but in order to protect companion animals we need to work together: the European Commission, the European Parliament, the stakeholders, the NGOs, the EU member states and the animal welfare organizations. We should exchange ideas about the best trading practices and encourage responsible breeding”.


Agenda of the Event



VIER PFOTEN/ FOUR PAWS is an Austrian-based international animal welfare organisation with offices in ten European countries, South Africa, the USA and Australia. FOUR PAWS was founded in 1988 in Austria, and in 2003 the organisation became FOUR PAWS International. Since 2007, FOUR PAWS has had a European Policy Office in Brussels which aims to strengthen animal welfare at the European level by influencing European policies and the legal framework. With the aim of consolidating the consideration of companion animals and the responsible ownership principle in EU policies, in 2010 the office created the CAROdog platform (“Companion Animal Responsible Ownership”), followed in 2013 by the CAROcat platform, and has established the EU Traceability Experts Group. With its European Policy Office, VIER PFOTEN/ FOUR PAWS has a long standing experience in consultancy on Animal Welfare in Brussels. The main goal is to improve the consideration and the protection of farm animals, wild animals and companion animals at EU level to reach at least responsible ownership through better legislation, but also better enforcement.

Contact information:

VIER PFOTEN/ FOUR PAWS, European Policy Office

Av. de la Renaissance 19/11, 1000 Brussels, Belgium


Phone: 0032-2-7400888



Adoption of the EU Regulation to adapt EU seal ban to WTO rules by the Council

Today, on 1st October 2015 the Council finally adopted a Regulation in order to adapt the current EU legislation on trade in seal products to the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Background information: In 2009, the EU Seal Regulation (EC 1007/2009) was adopted, prohibiting the placing on the EU market of seal products, in response to concerns of EU citizens regarding animal welfare. The Regulation contains two exceptions: the first is for products derived from hunts conducted by Inuit or other indigenous communities (IC exception); and the second is for hunts conducted for the purpose of the sustainable management of marine resources on a small scale and non-profit basis (MRM exception).

Canada and Norway challenged the Regulation in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute on EC – Measures Prohibiting the Importation and Marketing of Seal Products (DS400 and DS401). The WTO considered the general ban on seal products justified for moral concerns regarding animal welfare, but found the two exceptions from the general rule problematic. In particular, the WTO judged that the two exceptions lead a discriminatory treatment of Canadian and Norwegian seal products. Despite MRM hunts being small in scale and not profit-oriented, the Panel considered that the differences between those hunts and the bigger commercial hunts were not sufficient to justify a different treatment.

Therefore, the EU has to modify its current regime in order bring its Regulation into compliance with WTO rules. Thus, the Commission proposed an amendment to the current Regulation on trade in seal products.

Regarding the MRM exception, the EC proposal removes such exception the MRM exception.

Regarding the IC exception, the proposal links the use of the exception to the respect of animal welfare: it is “conditional upon those hunts being conducted in a manner which reduces pain, distress, fear or other forms of suffering of the animals hunted to the extent possible”, and provides for a mechanism that would help prevent its misuse.

Moreover, the IC exception should be limited to hunts that contribute to the subsistence need of those communities and are thus not conducted for commercial purposes. Thus, the Commission should be enabled to limit, if necessary, the quantity of seal products placed on the market.

The EC proposal was voted at the beginning of June by the Internal Market Committee within the European Parliament, where MEPs ruled out EU sales of seal products from MRM hunts, while keeping the IC exception and linking it to the respect of animal welfare. In October, the EU Parliament voted also.


Austrian Ministry of Finance Links Animal Welfare and Investment Policy

Humane Society International applauds move, urges other EU Member States to follow suit

The Austrian Ministry of Finance has committed to safeguarding and enhancing animal welfare when granting investment capital through international finance institutions. This commitment is referenced within the Austrian government’s updated policy strategy relating to international finance institutions, released this week, and reflects the growing importance of animal welfare in agricultural development and food policy.

Joanna Swabe, EU executive director Humane Society International, said: “We applaud the Austrian Ministry of Finance for taking this first step towards ending financial support for poor animal welfare housing systems in emerging and developing economies. Similar policies by other Member States will be critical to raising farm animal welfare standards worldwide.”

The World Bank is revising its Safeguard Policies that define criteria for future investments. HSI has created an online tool for people to write to the World Bank executive directors, calling for the inclusion of meaningful animal welfare standards that would preclude the most extreme confinement practices in animal agriculture.

Call on the World Bank to update its animal welfare policies.



  • The European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy states that the concern for animal welfare extends beyond the EU’s borders.
  • Across the globe, an overwhelming number of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves are confined in battery cages, individual sow stalls and veal crates, respectively. The intensive confinement of these production systems severely impairs animal welfare, given that the animals are unable to exercise or engage in many important natural behaviours. Extensive scientific evidence has demonstrated that intensively confined farm animals experience boredom, distress and suffering.
  • Conventional battery cages for egg-laying hens, the continual confinement of pregnant sows in individual sow stalls, and veal crates for calves have already been banned and phased out throughout the EU.
  • In May 2014, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development revised its Environmental and Social Policy to include animal welfare, requiring clients to implement relevant EU farm animal welfare standards or good international practice, whichever is most stringent, when investment capital is provided. HSI believes that the EBRD’s policy should serve as a model for other international finance institutions, including the World Bank Group.


Further information:

A report by HSI highlighted the use of public funds by international financial institutions and export credit agencies to support facilities using extreme confinement systems to raise animals for food in third countries. The report brought the issue to the attention of Member State governments and the European Parliament.


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The return of the wolf: a Conference in the EU Parliament

From a thorough identification of the challenges rising from the Human-Wolf relationship to a difficult definition of suitable and sustainable solutions.

A conference entitled “the Return of the Wolf to the European Landscape: Challenges and Solutions” was organised by the Intergroup for the biodiversity, hunting and countryside in the European Parliament yesterday.

During the latter, main concerns and issues linked to the wolves populations presence and development within the EU were raised. In particular, and as suggested in the title of the conference, emphasis has been laid on problems encountered by EU regions faced with the return of wolves decades, if not centuries, after their eradication by Human Beings.

At this stage, it is important to insist on the fact that, contrary to a common belief, wolves returned to their former territories most of the time on their own and no volontary reintroduction of the species was involved. Wolves used to be a natural big carnivore in Europe, endemic to some specific regions.

The whole panel seemed to agree on what the core challenges consisted in. First of all, it has been consistently acknowledged that wolves suffer from a low social acceptance, especially compared to other big carnivores in Europe. Several reasons account for this. From an historic perspective, wolves were always depicted as pests. This perception hasn't shifted for an important range of the European citizens. It has even been fed by media's focuses on information, sometimes inaccurate, leading to an emotional response of the population instead of rising its acute awareness (e. g. showing an adolescent pretending, without concrete proof, he was attacked by a wolves pack).

The increase of close-contacts between wolves and humans (e. g. 77 wolves closer than 25 meters from human beings were reported in Germany last year) make the Wolf more visible and is also a source of fear among people, even though the risk of an attack is assessed as very low.

The return of the Wolf also generates troubles with both farmers and hunters, respectively because of livestocks and hunting preys depredation, which, according to them, gives rise to a considerable loss of income for some of these professionals (which are actually most of the time compensated through States subsidies). It is very unfortunate that some hunters do not only fear for their preys but also sometimes encourage the wolf spreading in order to be able to hunt them in a near future, as suggested by a participant.

In the specific case of farmers, the return of the wolves in areas where they had disappeared for a while has posed difficulties since their infrastructures or farming methods are not adapted to wolf's depredation anymore. On the other side, this commonly spread scare and lack of adaptation don't always reach areas which have been continuously Wolf territories. There, Wolves and Humans have always been sharing lands and inhabitants have adapted their lives and infrastructures in order to prevent damages from wolves. Henceforth, the coexistence of wolves and locals is peaceful and the acceptance of the wolves much higher.

In the end, all of these combined factors have resulted in a more systematic culling policy from the public institutions (most of the time through a mean of derogation to the Birds and Habitats Directive) and in an escalation of illegal killing of wolves, leading sometimes to the decrease of a population under the favourable conservation status level (e. g. in Finland).

But there are not only opponents to the Wolf's return, fierce defenders of its cause are also numerous. For instance, in Germany where the Wolf has returned for more than a decade now and its population increasing significantly every year (around 30%), a Nature And Biodiversity Union (hereafter NABU) survey has highlighted that nearly 80% of the overall population welcomed this return, when merely 17% opposed it.

However, a lack of communication, knowledge and understanding resulted in conflicts, sometimes violent,  between pro- and contra-Wolves.

The Challenges being defined, Solutions were equally to be discussed. Consensus was reached on two points. First of all, there need to be more scientifically-evidenced-based decisions alongside with dissemination of these information amongst the population. The public policy-makers decisions as well as the public opinion should not originate from spontaneous emotional reaction mostly drawn by the media. Solid scientific data, as a panelist suggested, are the core clue for understanding the Wolves behaviours, reassuring the population as well as finding suitable solutions to tackle the problems that have arisen.

Then, a real dialogue should be established between the several stakeholders (namely public institutions, hunters, farmers and representatives of environment, biodiversity or animal welfare organisations) in order to think and find out compromised solutions. In this particular regard, the European Commission has created in 2014 a platform on coexistence between People and Large carnivores. This incentive should be rewarded though it is deplorable that COPA COGECA, the main representative committee for farmers at the EU level, has left the table (for unknown reasons). It is all the more unfortunate that their core solutions' proposal during the conference was actually to set up a genuine dialogue between all stakeholders.

Regarding solutions proposed to the concerns here-above mentioned, wolves culling was sadly presented as a viable remedy by a large range of both the panel and the participants. Unfortunately, other means of regulation and resolution of the Human-wolf conflict (e. g. through compensation, a  Catch-Neuter-Release policy or prevention measures) were barely mentioned through the interventions and debates, if at all.

According to Four Paws, solutions for this conflict were mostly to be found amongst these measures, and not through massive wolves culling. A long term and holistic approach should indeed be developed. For instance, it is undeniable than in some areas Wolves attack livestocks because their prey base has become too narrow or the amount of preys available too scarce, due to Human activities (urban expansion, excessive hunting). To this regard, human activities should also been treated as a factor of wolves behaviours towards livestock and the prey base should be therefore improved. This is one of the key actions for large carnivores (more specifically concerning the Carpathian Wolf population) that the European Commission has launched this year.

Wolves culling has never been proved as a viable solution and do not prevent from more damages in years following the culling (see: Alberto Fernandez-Gil, “management and conservation of wolves in Asturias, NW Spain: is population control justified for handling damage-related conflicts” (see Carnivore Damage Prevention news, n°10, spring 2014, p10-14).

More on the event on:


Trade in seal products: Outcome of the European Parliament's first reading

Information note from the General Secretariat of the Council to the Permanent Representatives Committee/Council on the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 on trade in seal products 
Outcome of the European Parliament's first reading, Strasbourg, 7 to 10 September 2015