Kassel (germany) Federal meeting of the Animal Welfare Officers and Ombudspersons for Animal Welfare

Translation of the Press Release of the Animal Welfare Officer of the German State Hesse

10 March 2016

Federal meeting of the Animal Welfare Officers and Ombudspersons for Animal Welfare in Kassel

System of “independent voices” for animal welfare leads the way

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Judgment in Germany: hunting association is not an animal welfare organisation

In the German State North Rhine Westphalia (NRW), a class action has been introduced since 2013 for animal welfare organisations. A hunting association asked the Ministry of environment  to be registered as Animal Welfare Organisation to get the privilege of using the class action in this state. The Ministry did not accept this request and the hunting organization has filed a complained against the Ministry, and there was and administration court case.  

The judge of the administration court in Gelsenkirchen rejected the request of the hunting organization to be registered as an Animal Welfare Organisation. In consequence they have no legal base for using the tool of class action for animal welfare, as this is possible for seven registered AWOs in North Rhine Westphalia.

 

Comment by Dr Marlene Wartenberg, FOUR PAWS consultant:

The class action is logic legal political consequence of the federal state goal Animal Welfare, based in Art. 20a of the German constitution since 2002. The class action Animal Welfare has been established in the meantime in seven of 16 states of Germany (Baden-Württemberg, Bremen, Hamburg, North Rhine Westphalia, Reinland Pfalz, Saarland, Schleswig Holstein). Six of these states have a red or red and green government, one, Saarland, has a right-left coalition.

In the court case mentioned above we see that also this tool clearly established for the balance and in the interest for the sake of the animals and granting a proper enforcement of the respective AW legislation, by correcting wrong administration decisions against the animals or stating that the decision of an administration is wrong, should be misused here by hunters, but the judgement was very clear.

North Rhine Westphalia has a state government composed by Socialists and Greens. The minister for climate, environment, agriculture, nature conservation and consumer protection is lead by a Green state minister.

The class action of North Rhine Westphalia was established in 2013 and has the broadest scope for AWOs activities and contributions, they have also participation rights e.g. to be heard already during a legislation procedure. NRW is also the state with most registered AWOs: seven. In the other states there are only one or up to three registered, in some states there are common offices of AWOs. There is also a certain diversity of empowerment, however all of them enable the AWOs to do a so called positive or negative declaratory action, and five have also a more far reaching right for rescission (or called action to rescind).  

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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: http://www.face.eu/about-us/resources/events/the-return-of-the-wolf-to-the-european-landscape-challenges-and-solutions

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Baden-Württemberg (DE): A class action for animal welfare

On 6 May 2015, the German Länder Baden-Württemberg has decided to create a class action on animal welfare. So far, Baden-Württemberg is the 7th state in Germany to have created it.

A class action is a type of lawsuit, enabling a group of citizen represented by one to act together in front of a court. 

More on http://www.landtag-bw.de/files/live/sites/LTBW/files/dokumente/WP15/Drucksachen/6000/15_6593_D.pdf.

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Joint Declaration on Animal Welfare

On December 14th 2014, the Ministries of Netherlands, Denmark and Germany have co-written and signed a joint declaration on animal welfare aiming to improve animal welfare in the EU. The three countries are calling all the other Member States to sign it also.

Please find here the joint declaration: Animal Welfare Declaration

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EU Elections 2014

EU Elections took place from the 22nd to the 26th of May 2014. For this 8th period, 751 MEPs have been elected.

If you want to consult the results, country per country please visit http://www.results-elections2014.eu/en/election-results-2014.html

Regarding Animal Welfare, for the first time, two MEPs from a national Animal Welfare Party have been elected: one from Germany and one from the Netherlands.

Continue reading EU Elections 2014

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North-Rhine-Westphalia (Germany): stop of tail docking on pigs for 2016

Yesterday, the Ministry of Agriculture of the German Land North-Rhine-Westphalia signed an agreement with two farmers' associations to stop routine tail docking on pig up from 2016.

Up to now, only Sweden, Finland and Lithuania have already banned this painful practice. 

More information in the press relase of PROVIEH : 140225_Campaign success for PROVIEH

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Bremen (Germany): Experiments on Monkeys allowed in University

The Federal Administrative Court of Germany has decided that the professors in the Bremen University are allowed to continue their experiments on brains of live Macaques. These experiments were stopped in 2012 by the higher regional court due to ethical concerns, but the Federal Administrative Court estimates that these experiments are not creating "severe sufferings" and consequently can be pursued.

More information on http://www.zeit.de/wissen/2014-02/kreiter-tierversuche-rechtsstreit-leipzig

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