Animal disease law formally approved by European Parliament agriculture committee

By Kitty So

- Last updated on GMT

Measures to stop diseases such as avian influenza have been backed by the European Parliament
Measures to stop diseases such as avian influenza have been backed by the European Parliament

Related tags: European union

The European Parliament’s agriculture and rural development committee has backed proposed measures to prevent and stop outbreaks of animal diseases, including avian flu and African swine fever. 

This new European Union (EU) regulation had been informally agreed by members of the parliament (MEPs) and the EU Council of Ministers in June 2015, but have now been formally approved by this influential committee, at a meeting last week (Tuesday February 23).

“The draft EU law, on diseases that are transmissible among animals and potentially to humans too, will put more emphasis on prevention and help keep pace with scientific progress,”​ noted a parliament communiqué.

Claiming its passage was “a great victory”​, Jasenko Selimovic, a Swedish liberal MEP who coordinated the parliament’s votes on the issue (as ‘rapporteur’), noted that it links animal health and welfare and connects it to human health: “This direct link, together with emphasis on responsible use of antibiotics, will help us fight growing antimicrobial resistance. Second, it enables the authorities and producers to focus more closely on prevention and control of transmissible animal diseases. And third, it merges around 40 legal acts into one basic act”​, said Selimovic.

The new rules further emphasise the importance of prevention. Under its terms, all farmers, livestock owners and traders will be required to apply the principles of good animal husbandry including a “prudent, responsible” use of veterinary medicines. A parliament note added it will tell the European Commission to monitor the actual use of animal antimicrobials in member states, regularly publishing comparable and detailed data.

In addition, the new law will allow the Commission to take urgent measures when fighting emerging disease, whose goal is having a “highly significant impact”​ on public health, animal welfare and health, and farming.

The parliament stressed that during negotiations on the text MEPs also added insisted that a constantly updated European Union list be created that details outbreaks of dangerous diseases such as African swine fever, avian flu or foot and mouth disease. This would be set up in consultation with European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) experts.

Meanwhile the law insists that relevant organisations such as farmers’ organisations, veterinary associations, and animal welfare movements are involved in drafting and updating contingency plans to fight livestock diseases.

It also clarifies that farmers, traders, animal professionals including veterinarians and also pet owners are responsible for ensuring the good health of their animals and should 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 antimicrobial resistance. As well, in order to prevent stray animals from spreading diseases, which could potentially damage the livestock sector, all professional pet keepers and sellers would also be registered and the

Commission could be empowered to ask EU member states to establish a national database of dogs and other pets.

“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,”​ added the communiqué.

The text was approved by the agriculture committee unanimously with 41 votes. Before it enters into force, it still requires endorsement by the parliament as a whole at the second reading, which would likely be at the March 7-10 plenary session in Strasbourg.

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