Despite the fact that many species can now be bred in captivity, the 25 Member States of the EU are the largest consumers of wild birds taken from their natural habitat. Between 2000 and 2003 more than 2.7 million CITES-listed birds were imported into the EU, representing approximately 93 percent of total global imports. The USA has already banned commercial imports of wild birds. The EU bans the export of our own bird life, but paradoxically is responsible for the extraction of hundreds of thousands of birds from the wild for importation each year, which raises serious animal welfare questions, as the mortality rates for these captured birds are frighteningly high. Furthermore, the illegal trade in CITES-listed species is estimated to be as lucrative as the illegal drugs and arms trades.
Will the Commission extend the current temporary ban on the import of wild birds, introduced in October 2005 as a precaution against avian influenza and due to expire at the end of 2006? What measures are being taken to stop the illegal trade in wild birds?
The Commission on 25 April 2005 requested the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to prepare a Scientific Opinion on the animal health and welfare risks associated with captive bird imports. This Opinion was adopted by EFSA on 27 October 2006.
The Opinion identifies a number of ways in which the provisions for captive bird imports can be improved so as to significantly reduce any risk posed to animal health in the EU.
Based on the EFSA Opinion, the Commission intends to amend the entire set of provisions for captive bird imports, including quarantine requirements, laid down in Decision 2000/666/EC.
Because this Scientific Opinion will guide the future policy of the EU on the animal health and welfare aspects of these imports, it is important to properly assess the scientific input received by the Commission.
In the light of the current world animal health situation regarding avian influenza the restrictions provided for in Dec. 2005/760/EC have been prolonged for a transitional period in order to allow the Commission, in close cooperation with the Member States to finalise this evaluation and to prepare the measures to be laid down.
This ban was first adopted in October 2005 as part of the EU preventive measures against avian influenza in third countries.
However, the aim is to ensure that the new measures are adopted and enforced in early 2007.
A Commission proposal to prolong until 31 March 2007 the EU ban on all imports of live captive birds was presented to the Member States at the meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health on 1 December 2006 as they requested more time to examine the Scientific Opinion and discuss the measures to be adopted.
The Member States were all in favour of this approach.
On illegal trade of wild birds, measures are in place and customs and veterinary authorities work closely together to prevent such illegal importation. The Commission is always open to discuss this issue if further improvements can be made.