Measures to prevent and treat animal diseases such as avian flu or African swine fever were informally agreed by MEPs, the Latvian Presidency of the Council of Ministers and the European Commission on Monday. The draft EU law, on diseases that are transmissible among animals and potentially to humans too, will merge and update many scattered items of old legislation, so as to help prevent and halt new outbreaks and keep pace with scientific progress.
"After 40 years of fighting for animals in Europe, I can finally see the finishing line. This law will be an important toolbox for the future", said Marit Paulsen (ALDE, SE), who steered the legislation through the Parliament and headed Parliament's negotiating team.
"The new Animal Health Law will establish the first ever link between animal welfare and public health in EU law, and will be an important tool for fighting antimicrobial resistance in humans, animals and the environment", she added.
Prevention: better animal husbandry and responsible use of medicines
The new rules will put more emphasis on prevention, in line with Parliament's long-standing position. All farmers and other animal owners and traders will be obliged to apply the principles of good animal husbandry and a prudent, responsible use of veterinary medicines. "This would make it considerably more difficult to use antimicrobials as an "umbrella" to cover bad animal husbandry in the future," said Ms Paulsen.
As a part of the deal, the Parliament, the Commission and the Council issued a joint statement calling on EU member states "to collect relevant, comparable and sufficiently detailed data on the actual use of antimicrobial medicinal products in animals and to send such data to the Commission”, which should then publish them regularly.
Open, transparent, inclusive and science-based decisions
To tackle emerging diseases that could have a “highly significant impact” on public health, agricultural production or animal welfare and health, the law will empower the Commission to take urgent measures immediately.
To ensure that disease prevention and control decisions are effective, MEPs included provisions to:
All disease control measures will have to take animal welfare into account and spare targeted animals, including stray animals, any avoidable pain, distress or suffering, says the agreed text.
Responsibilities and strays
The agreed rules clarify the responsibilities of farmers, traders, and animal professionals, including veterinarians and pet owners, to ensure the good health of their animals and to avoid introducing or spreading diseases. For instance vets should be legally obliged to raise awareness of the interaction between animal health and welfare and human health and better inform owners about the problem of resistance to treatments, including the antimicrobial resistance.
To tackle the problem of strays transmitting animal diseases, MEPs inserted provisions that would require all professional pet keepers and sellers to be registered and empower the Commission to ask EU member states to establish a computer database of dogs and other pets, if need be.
The agreed text now needs to be approved by Parliament's Agriculture Committee, possibly on 17 June, and then scrutinised by the Council. Once the Council delivers its position on the result of negotiations, the draft law will need to be approved by Parliament as a whole at the second reading.
Procedure: Co-decision (ordinary legislative procedure), early 2nd reading agreement
Type of document: Regulation
Across the EU, the farming sector is the largest user of animals, with at least 2 billion birds (chickens, laying hens, turkeys, etc.) and 334 million mammals (pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, fur animals, etc.)
There are 13.7 million animal holdings in the EU.
The value of livestock farming output in the EU is € 156 billion a year.