The Issue

Efforts to improve animal welfare can be hampered by the way relevant legislation is being enforced. Late implementation or poor enforcement can lead to legislation failing to have a significant impact.

Parliamentary action

Although the European Parliament is primarily concerned with the adoption and revision of legislation, EU citizens often voice their concerns about issues of non-implementation or poor enforcement directly to the Parliament. For many years the Intergroup has been both active and vocal about delays in implementation and poor enforcement of animal welfare legislation. The recent problems highlighted related to the implementation of the ban on conventional battery cages and also to animal testing for cosmetics.

Invited at several Intergroup meetings since 2006, representatives of the European Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) have highlighted the latest developments in the enforcement process of animal welfare related EU legislation. However, despite repeated demands neither the number of FVO inspections on animal welfare has been increased nor the level of inspections by the competent authorities of the Member States.


Although there is constant pressure to adopt and improve animal welfare legislation, there is also considerable concern about the way current legislation is being enforced.

The application and enforcement of European legislation is generally the responsibility of the individual Member States with the support and surveillance of the European Commission. Sometimes, there appear to be substantial differences between Member States as to the seriousness with which some measures are observed.

The Commission is usually not in a position to do more than occasional spot-checks and audits. The problem is highlighted in the Evaluation of the EU policy on animal welfare published in 2010. The conclusions of this evaluation state, inter alia, that “stronger and more consistent enforcement of existing rules is needed”, and also that “in certain areas further action on enforcement and harmonization is required”.

For instance, the Commission itself has failed to implement some animal welfare measures such as the ban on certain furs imported from countries still using steel-jaw leghold traps.

The Commission has emphasised that proper enforcement of animal welfare related legislation is a priority.

One of the most problematic issues is live animal transport and the ability to effectively monitor whether animals are receiving the minimum rest and feeding requirements. In its report to the European Parliament and the Council on the impact of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport, published in November 2011, the Commission points out the main reasons why the legislation did not have more than a limited impact on the welfare of animals: firstly because it is not fully in line with the current scientific knowledge as confirmed by EFSA and secondly because the Regulation is poorly enforced. This is due to differences in interpretation of the legal requirements, and due to the lack of controls by the Member States. Furthermore, the report underlines the poor quality of monitoring data, submitted to the Commission by Member States, which is often insufficient to provide a clear analysis of the situation and thus to allow planning of specific corrective measures at EU level.

In several Member States infringements have been launched in relation to slaughter and transportation of farm animals; the use and care of laboratory animals; the importation or sale of prohibited items of animal origin; conditions in zoos; and conformity with conservation measures, such as observance of hunting restrictions. 13 Member States have shown lack of compliance with the ban on conventional cages for laying hens, and it is already likely that at least 9 EU countries will not be fully complying with the ban on sow stalls coming into force on 01/01/2013.


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