Animal welfare

Council of Europe Conventions and Recommendations

The European Convention for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes (No. 087) dated 10 September 1978 was ratified by all EU Member States and transposed into their national legislation. This Convention lays down the general provisions on animal protection and is a binding guideline. Next to this general framework, a Recommendation concerning fur animals was adopted by the Standing Committee on 22 June 1999 and provides specific welfare guidelines for fur-farmed species.

EFBA Position:

EFBA supports the Council of Europe Recommendation on fur animals and helps Member States to integrate it into their national legislation. This is the best guarantee to secure animal-welfare conditions on the farm and to ensure that national inspection controls are performed on a regular basis. The Recommendation has been included in the EFBA Code of Practice, applicable to all EFBA members.

EU Animal Welfare

Today, there is no Community Law on Animal Welfare detailing specific provisions per animal species. Council Directive 98/58 (EC) of 20 July 1998 lays down the minimum standards for the protection of animals bred or kept for farming purposes. Fur-farmed animals are covered by the scope of this Directive under article 2 §1.

Animal Welfare Strategy 2012-2015 and Animal Welfare Framework Law
The European Parliament and the Council adopted a welfare action plan covering 2012-2015. The strategy sets out clear goals for the EU regarding animal welfare. The Commission has to develop an animal welfare framework law by 2013-2014.

MEP Marit Paulsen (ALDE, SE) was rapporteur in the European Parliament on the strategy and her report called for better enforcement of current EU rules on animal welfare, and that the new framework law should be based on scientific research. The report asks for all national rules to be unified and as well for more transparency in the area. The report is also in favor of increasing the controlling posers of the Commission over those of the national authorities in order to limit delays in enforcement of EU animal welfare laws. The report was adopted with great majority (in favor: 574, against: 82, abstentions: 17). The report is a non-binding-own-initiative report supporting the Commission’s proposal for the EU’s strategy for the protection and animal welfare 2012-2015.

The EU Agricultural Ministers also supported the initiative by the European Commission. In the conclusion from the meeting the ministers gave their support for stricter rules on animal welfare based on results from scientific research.

The next steps regarding Animal Welfare Framework Law
The European Commission is expected to table the EU-wide framework law on animal welfare in 2013 or 2014. Both the European Parliament and the Council has been pushing for implementation as soon as possible.

It is expected that the Commission will include the principles from the Animal Welfare Quality® Project in the process.

EFBA Position:

EFBA supports the new initiative regarding a European animal welfare framework law based on scientific results. This is also closely linked to the initiative taken by EFBA in 2009 to develop a welfare program. In 2009 EFBA initiated WelFur, which is the application of the welfare quality principles to fur farmed species (mink and fox). Read more about the program here.

Welfare at Slaughter

EU legislation on welfare at slaughter aims to minimize pain and suffering of animals through the use of properly-approved stunning and killing methods, based on robust scientific knowledge and practical experience. Council Directive 93/119 has been revised since 2006. On 22 June 2009, the European Council adopted a political agreement on a new Regulation for the protection of animals at the time of killing that replaces the present Directive and will enter into force on 1 January 2013. Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 was published in the Official Journal on 18 November 2009.

EFBA Position:

EFBA welcomes this Commission review of slaughter practices and has been involved in the stakeholder consultation process. Stricter operating procedures and training of operators will reinforce the welfare of fur-farmed animals at the time of stunning and killing. EFBA has developed code of practice for the killing of mink and for the killing of foxes. The reports have been developed by scientists from MTT Agrifood Research in Finland. The protocols are done in line with the latest scientific and practical assessments. With the code of practice also follows appendixes with examples and concrete guidelines. The protocols can be used directly by the farmers.


The EU has had rules governing animal welfare during transport since 1977. The rules aim to eliminate technical barriers to trade in live animals and to allow the industry to operate smoothly, while ensuring a satisfactory level of protection for the animals concerned. The EU legislation was last updated by Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2005 of 22 December 2004. The regulation states that the Commission should present a report to the Council and the European Parliament on the impact of the regulation. In particular the report should take into account scientific evidence on the welfare needs of animals. The report was presented to the European Parliament and the Commission 10th of November 2011.

In 2009 a proposal to reduce travelling time to nine hours and reinforce navigation systems, and has been twice submitted to the Commission inter-service consultation procedure. A number of concerns remain unresolved at this stage. In 2010 the European Parliament send a written declaration (NO 49/2011) to establish a maximum 8-hour journey limit for animals transported in the European Unidon for the purpose of being slaughtered.

The Report from the Commission is currently discussed in the European Parliament. Rapporteur Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR, PL) did a report criticizing the report from the Commission for not being covering all the topics of the evaluation. Also the report calls for the Commissions point of view on decreasing the transport time to 8-hours. Wojciehowski calls for the Commission to develop an objective and reliable system for evaluating the welfare of animals during transport. The report welcomes the use of scientific research presented by EFSA. The rapporteur is overall positive towards the report from the Commission but emphasizes that the report doesn’t include the full assessment of all the economic, social and environmental costs of animal transport. The report has not been approved in the Agricultural Committee of the European Parliament and not discussed in Plenary either. The report will be discussed again in late September.

EFBA Position:

Transport is very limited for fur-farmed animals as slaughter takes place on the farm itself. It only impacts the transport of livestock that is only a small part of the activity in our sector. EFBA participated in the stakeholder-consultation process and is following up developments on this issue very closely in 2010.

Animal-Welfare Standards

The EU Welfare Quality® project (2004-2009), funded by the European Commission, involved integration of animal welfare in the food-quality chain. The project aimed for the accommodation of societal concerns and market demands through the development of reliable on-farm welfare-assessment protocols, product-information systems and practical species-specific strategies to improve animal welfare. Three species were covered: cattle beef and dairy; pigs; and poultry-broiler chickens and laying hens. Some 44 institutes and universities with specialist expertise from 13 European and 4 Latin American countries participated in this integrated research project (

EFBA Position:

The Welfare Quality® protocols are species specific and can be further developed provided that sufficient scientific knowledge on the biology and welfare of a species is available. Welfare of the most important fur-farmed species – mink, fox and Finnraccoon – has been scientifically studied over the last 25 years. On 1 September 2009, in collaboration with seven European research institutes and a number of experts from Welfare Quality®, EFBA initiated WelFur, which aims at setting standards for the fur farmed animals. See more about WelFur at our dedicated website.