Intergroup meeting: Humane Management of Invasive Alien Species

24 Nov 2022
Earlier today, the Intergroup on Animal Welfare, chaired by MEP Tilly Metz (the Greens/EFA, LU), gathered in Strasbourg and extensively discussed the humane management of Invasive Alien Species (IAS). These are non native species that have a detrimental impact on native biodiversity and ecosystems.

Today’s session offered MEPs the opportunity  to learn more about humane methods available to manage these species, and most importantly about  the needs to ensure  the management of these species complies with high animal welfare standards to avoid suffering, as provided in the IAS regulation.

In this context, two speakers presented and opened the discussion on the current initiatives to improve the welfare of animals targeted by IAS management as well as potential solutions to ensure the welfare of IAS species. 

Firstly, Mr. Juan Pérez Lorenzo, DG Environment, recalled that animal welfare is an essential value to European citizens, enshrined in  Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. He also mentioned that the EU legal framework, including the IAS Regulation, provides for animal welfare to be considered while effectiveness of management measures must also be a priority. He emphasised the importance of constantly reviewing the Union List to best address current challenges. He also mentioned the creation of workshops with stakeholders to provide a better application of the IAS management guidelines. 

Mr. Kevin Smith from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), presented the recently published Manual on feasible and humane management measures for vertebrate IAS commissioned by the European Commission. After three years of research by a wide range of stakeholders, this manual presented IAS management methods for each vertebrate species placed on the Union list, assessing the potential welfare impact, availability, costs and effectiveness. This manual was created for wildlife practitioners as well as key stakeholders to ensure that methods meeting high animal welfare standards were applied to manage IAS. It shows that prevention is the most effective measure to respect animal welfare and biodiversity. It also proposes insights on methods that are incompatible with animal welfare requirements. 

Several MEPs participated in the discussions. Caroline Roose (Greens/EFA, FR) raised the question on how the European Commission intends to control the prohibition of some measures that fail to meet animal welfare standards as detailed in the manual presented. The Commission representative, Mr. Lorenzo, responded that part of this control is already existing in EU and international legislations. However, the European Commission mentioned it will consider listing more detailed control measures in a future manual.

Other MEPs highlighted the need to implement measures to prevent the introduction of IAS.  Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL, NL), mentioned that an EU wide positive list of animals allowed to be kept as pets would be particularly relevant to tackle the pathways from the exotic pet trade. Mr. Lorenzo responded that the European Commission is considering the idea of an EU wide positive list. Annika Bruna (ID, FR) added that global controls on the international market should be done to avoid IAS being imported into the EU in order to protect animal welfare and EU biodiversity. 

Importantly, Anja Hazekamp mentioned that the IAS status has a negative impact on public opinion with regards to these animals, considering them as pests despite the fact they are sentient beings. The European Commission highlighted that material aiming to raise awareness and inform the public have been recently produced and are available on the European Alien Species Information Network website. The European Commission also encouraged MEPs to further disseminate these materials in their Member States.

In conclusion, following today’s session, it is clear that more must be done to protect animal welfare while preventing the establishment of IAS. Preventative measures are key. 

See for example, Eurogroup for Animals’ position paper on the Union List of IAS to find out more.  

The EU wide positive list represents an encouraging solution that is currently being assessed by the European Commission under the Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, and for which a resolution has been adopted by the European Parliament on this very day. The European Commission was also urged to conduct further research on non-lethal management methods, which they agreed is something they can work on. The Intergroup is also encouraged by the openness to  possibly publish a list of prohibited management methods failing to meet minimum welfare standards. 

The next Animal Welfare Intergroup session will take place on Thursday 15 December from 09:30 - 11:00 and will concern equines in the revision of the animal welfare acquis. 


Kevin Smith, IUCN, Management of Vertebrate Invasive Alien Species