Doc. 7959

14 November 1997

Animal welfare and lifestock transport in Europe

Reply to Recommendation 1289 (1996)

from the Committee of Ministers

adopted on 30 October 1997 at the 607th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies

The Committee of Ministers has carefully examined Recommendation 1289 (1996) on animal welfare and livestock transport in Europe.

The Committee of Ministers shares the Assembly's concern that the treatment of animals during international transport should comply with the commonly accepted international standards (including the European Convention for protection of animals during international transport, ETS No. 65), and that the competent national authorities should exercise the necessary vigilance to ensure that the applicable standards are complied with. It is pointed out that, since 1987, periodical multilateral consultations have enabled the Contracting Parties to be brought together to take stock of the problems encountered, to exchange experience and to promote the adoption of harmonised solutions to the difficulties which have arisen.

To this end, Recommendation 1289 has been transmitted to the governments of member States, to the Contracting Parties to both the European Convention for the protection of animals during international transport and the European Convention for the protection of animals for slaughter and to the European Commission.

Referring more particularly to items 8.b to 8.e, the Committee of Ministers wishes to make the observations which follow.

Education and training. The Committee of Ministers agrees with the Assembly that the public should be made aware of animal welfare and takes the view that this subject should be included in general education and therefore be dealt with in schools. The recommendations adopted by the Standing Committee of the European Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes (ETS No. 87) emphasise the need for a certain level of education and training in the professional circles concerned. An evaluation of competence has been required in respect of new species and will be considered for forthcoming recommendations. The Contracting Parties have also published manuals based on the principles appearing in the various legislative texts relating to animal welfare. The Committee of Ministers transmitted Recommendation 1289 (1996) of the Parliamentary Assembly to the CDCC and to the Liaison Committee of the non-governmental organisations enjoying consultative status with the Council of Europe, in order for them to take it into account in their works.

Monitoring and oversight of the Conventions. None of the Conventions to which reference is made in the Recommendation (ETS No. 65 on the protection of animals during international transport, ETS No. 87 on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes and ETS No. 102 on the protection of animals for slaughter) provides for either a formal monitoring system or the sanctioning of Contracting Parties. However, the periodical multilateral consultations relating to Conventions Nos. 65 and 102 and the Standing Committee set up on the Convention No. 87 enable the said Conventions to be regularly monitored.

In particular, the Standing Committee for Convention No. 87 (T-AP) makes a critical examination at every meeting of the measures taken at national level for the purposes of the Convention. Certain countries are required to report on the progress achieved in implementing provisions in respect of which difficulties had been notified. Furthermore, the countries which are not parties to the Convention are also asked to specify their problems in the fields which it covers. The ongoing dialogue which thus takes place is reflected in the improvements constantly made to national legislation, which is tending to move closer to the Convention and to the principles contained in the recommendations adopted by the committee, with the result that the harmonisation and ratification process is accelerated.

Continuation and consolidation of work in the field of animal welfare. The Committee of Ministers points out that the constraints imposed on the Council of Europe budget have led it to suppress the appropriations for financing the attendance of representatives of the Contracting Parties at meetings of the T-AP. It intends to review the situation in the context of the examination of the draft budget for 1998. It also notes that the States concerned, convinced of the usefulness of this work, have, in spite of some difficulties, continued to participate in plenary meetings and in the Bureau of the Committee. The question of a possible Partial Agreement on the subject, which depends primarily on the States which are parties to the various Conventions, has not been raised to date.

Central and East European States. The Committee of Ministers agrees with the Assembly on the importance of close collaboration with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The active participation of several of these States in the meetings of the T-AP is evidence of the growing attention they pay to the committee's work, as is their request for seminars on animal welfare to be held within the framework of the co-operation and assistance programmes. One such seminar was held in Riga (Latvia) in September 1995, at the request of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Its success led the competent authorities of all three States to request further meetings of this kind.

Co-operation with the European Commission. As already mentioned, the European Commission is a prime partner in the field covered by Convention No. 87. The European Community is a party to the Convention and, in this capacity, plays a very active part in the work of the Standing Committee. The Committee of Ministers has noted with satisfaction that, in its communication of July 1993, the Commission put forward conclusions in favour of the Community's accession to the European Conventions relating to the protection of animals for slaughter (ETS No. 102) and during international transport (ETS No. 65), as well as in favour of the adoption of measures to transpose the recommendations of the T-AP.

Effects on human health of certain animal feeding practices. The Committee of Ministers can but share the concern of the Assembly about practices intended to increase production rates. The latest developments in stock farming in Europe have given rise to legitimate anxiety in professional circles and among the public. It is appropriate to point out in this context that the T-AP's recommendations have always emphasised the link between stock farming practices and the quality and hygiene of agricultural products. What is more, the Public Health Committee (Partial Agreement) made a study between 1983 and 1986 of the problems raised by residues in foodstuffs of animal origin of biochemical and biological substances (such as antibiotics and hormones) administered to the animals, in terms of the human health risk. A report was published in 1986 containing specific recommendations on the subject. Some of these conclusions, however, are no longer valid in the light of scientific developments and legislative amendments, so the Committee of Ministers has asked the Public Health Committee, with the assistance of the committee of experts of the Partial Agreement in the social and public health field which is responsible for studying such problems, to examine the questions raised by the Assembly in the light of both the past work of the Partial Agreement Committee of Experts on the Health Control of Foodstuffs and of current developments.

Where the problems stemming from the applications of biotechnologies, in particular “genetic manipulation”, are concerned, the Committee of Ministers points out that the Protocol of Amendment (ETS No. 145) opened for signature in 1992 extends the scope of the Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes to animals which have been genetically modified. The T-AP concluded as early as 1991 that “in the absence of any specific international agreement, it was highly desirable to study these developments with a view to defining certain principles to be respected for the welfare of the animals subjected to or resulting from biotechnological procedures”.

The Committee of Ministers has subsequently considered the holding of a conference on the progress of biotechnology and its consequences for agriculture, particularly in terms of the environment and health, which will be held during 1998. It will be possible at this conference to take stock of scientific knowledge and of the measures which should be considered in particular with a view to consumer health protection. It will be an opportunity for proposals to be made for activities, of which the Committee of Ministers will not fail to keep the Assembly informed through the reply which it will give in due course to Recommendation 1213.