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Animal welfare rules must be better enforced, existing loopholes closed and offenders punished, not least because they also protect human health, by preventing the spread of animal-related diseases and antimicrobial resistance, says Parliament in a non-binding resolution passed by a show of hands on Wednesday.

The resolution says today's disparate animal welfare rules should be pulled together in a single EU-wide animal welfare law so as to improve compliance and ensure a level playing field for all EU farmers. Furthermore, new rules should cover all farmed animals, including dairy cows, plus stray cats and dogs and other domestic pets, which are currently not protected by any EU law, it adds.

"The most important point in this proposal is the details of the broad, science-based general animal welfare framework law, reflecting the link between animal and public health. We must define jointly what we mean by good animal husbandry and determine clearly who is responsible for the animals. It is a matter of fairness, both to animals and producers across Europe", said Marit Paulsen (ALDE, SE), who drafted the resolution in response to the Commission's Animal Welfare Strategy for 2012-2015, tabled in January 2012.

Citizens' petitions for better protection of pets

The EU-wide legislation should also introduce new rules on the identification and registration of pets and the prohibition of unlicensed kennels and shelters.

The legislation should also provide for severe penalties to be imposed on member states that fail to enforce the rules, MEPs add in a separate resolution tabled in response to petitions received by Parliament.

Better controls and tough sanctions

Since animal welfare rules are still being broken, MEPs want member states to employ more and properly trained animal welfare inspectors and the EU Food and Veterinary Office to have more resources. Proper penalties must be imposed whenever the rules are breached,and ample information provided on how to remedy defects, they stress.

To avoid long delays in putting the new rules into effect, as happened with the laying hens directive, the resolution calls for an "early intervention" system to enable the European Commission to check at intervals whether member states can meet the deadline.

New labelling

In response to complaints by EU citizens, MEPs ask the Commission to consider creating a "slaughter without stunning" label for meat to help consumers to make more informed choices.

Trade with third countries

Parliament stresses that equivalent welfare standards should apply to all imported animals and products to ensure a level-playing field for EU farmers and comparable quality standards for EU consumers.

Procedure:  Non-legislative resolution