Strasbourg round-up: Animal health and health package

Key rapporteurs Marit Paulsen, Elisabeth Jeggle and Britta Reimers give use their verdict on parliament's new raft of animal and plant health rules.

Marit Paulsen is parliament's rapporteur on animal health

On Tuesday, the European parliament adopted its first reading position on a framework law on transmissible animal diseases, replacing some 40 different pieces of European legislation dating back from the 1960s and onwards. The spread of animal diseases poses a major threat to public health, since 70 per cent of infectious diseases are common to both animals and humans.

Based on the principles of prevention is better than cure and the 'one health' approach, the new set of rules create a clear chain of responsibilities - from animal owners and veterinarians to member states and EU institutions - and addresses important issues such as antimicrobial resistance and the problem posed by stray animals. No matter if it concerns a cat or a cow; the owner must acquire a sufficient knowledge of a good animal husbandry and the responsible use of veterinary medicines.

"A free market in live animals should not mean a free market in disease"

Furthermore, the amendments adopted by the plenary require the member states' authorities to put in place stricter control and prevention measures - not least along their external borders, which is important in times where, for instance, African swine fever has been discovered in Poland and Lithuania. And perhaps most importantly; the amendments adopted allow for a science-based decision making structure, involving the advice from the European food safety authority and stakeholders concerned, as to how the different animals and diseases should be tackled in the future.

A simplified, science-based legislation, easy to understand by all those farmers, veterinarians and others who will have to apply it for many years to come is fundamental. This new regulation is of the greatest importance for the functioning of the internal market in this field, but we must strike the right balance. A free market in live animals should not mean a free market in disease.

Elisabeth Jeggle is parliament's EPP group shadow rapporteur on animal health

The EPP group's major interests were to focus exclusively on the prevention and control of animal diseases and not to deal with pure animal welfare issues which do not have a direct link to the risk of diseases. We achieved this by changing the title of the report and we did not accept any amendments on eight-hour transports, cloning or density.

Another concern was the large number of delegated and implemented acts. The groups decided unanimously to have the list of diseases and species in the annexe of the regulation. Furthermore, we want to keep the regulations on the electronic identification of bovines and on the non-commercial movement of pets. These regulations have been passed recently and cannot simply be replaced by delegated acts as intended by the European commission.

We also put a stronger accent on the prevention of diseases. The report gives member states, under certain strict circumstances, the possibility for national measures to protect their territories from upcoming diseases. The African swine fever in eastern Europe shows the necessity of such special measures.

In my point of view the 'one health' principle requires that stray animals are treated separately and pushes politically for mandatory identification and registration within the EU. Stray animals often live close to humans and can be a serious threat for public health and must therefore be part of this regulation. The EPP group is very satisfied with this result as we have achieved all our main aims.

Britta Reimers is parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee opinion rapporteur on the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health, plant reproductive material, plant protection products

The commission's intention to push forward the enormous so-called health package just before the elections might have proven to be too ambitious a project. Although it is desirable to harmonise the organisation and execution of regulation in this regard on an EU-wide basis, the failure to reach an agreement on the plant reproductive material law in March indicated that the European parliament does not accept being pressurised into hasty conclusions while sacrificing due diligence.

We have to bear in mind that, especially regarding the official controls, there already is a large framework of rules in place. Instead of steadily adding bureaucracy and administrative costs by permanently passing additional laws, we should focus on better coordination and cooperation between the national authorities and on the implementation of existing rules.

The same counts for the calls of obligatory labelling of origin along the food chain. An obligatory label concerning animal husbandry creates administrative and financial burden. I therefore only support voluntary EU labelling. Furthermore, origin labelling is of no additional benefit to the consumer as it is not an indicator of health or quality standards. The horse meat scandal proved that existing provisions did not prevent criminal activity.

A project of this size should be tackled in the next legislation period of the European parliament as it will give members sufficient time to establish their views.


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