Animal Welfare: UK Still Top Dog
Brussels -- Friday 22 June 2012
An EU Directive being finalised in Brussels will strengthen the protection for animals used in scientific procedures.
The Animal Experimentation Directive is designed to promote the development, validation, acceptance and implementation of methods and strategies that replace, reduce and refine the scientific use of animals (the 3Rs). It also sets down detailed rules to ensure harmonisation and the proper functioning of the internal market.
The UK, to my mind, has always been ahead of the game in the field of animal welfare. It has consistently set higher standards than the rest of Europe and it is doing so again. Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone recently announced a number of areas where the Government intends to maintain stricter standards than those decided at EU level.
For example, the government proposes to retain special protection for dogs, cats and horses as well as non-human primates and to retain all current United Kingdom care and accommodation standards that are stricter than those set out in Annex III to the Directive.
It has also announced that it intends to keep the current requirement that individuals carrying out regulated procedures on animals must hold a personal licence authorising them to do so. However, it will explore simplifying the detail of personal licence authorities and removing current requirements which increase regulation without adding to the effectiveness of the licensing process.
The Directive itself states in Article 11 that the use of stray and feral domestic animals shall be prohibited except in essential studies relating to the health and welfare of the animals or serious threats to the environment or to human or animal health.
So it makes clear that there must be a scientific justification that the purpose of the procedure can only be achieved by the use of a stray or feral animal. What I want to know is what are these 'essential studies', 'serious threats' and 'scientific justifications'? Although I am predominantly against this idea I could perhaps see that it may be kinder to the animal to be used for some form of testing rather than for it to be abused or neglected on the streets.
However, I am at heart not comfortable with this kind of testing. I would support stronger preventative measures - people need to take responsibility for their pets and the Government does need to look at ways of managing the issue of strays without just thinking testing is a good way to solve a problem. What happened to man's best friend?
Stray Dogs - is sterilisation the answer?
Recently, I wrote to the Ukrainian Prime Minister about the proposed culling of the stray dog population ahead of the Euro 2012 Football Championships. Our campaign eventually ended the killing of stray dogs and caused Ukraine to adopt international humane standards in animal welfare. Charities like Naturewatch were instrumental.
But the issue doesn't stop there. There are reports of widespread abuse of stray dogs in Greece - the average life expectancy of a stray dog in Greece is now only 2 years. Amidst the downturn and the political upheaval the country is facing, people in the country are forgetting animal welfare and seeing pets as too expensive.
I believe a viable option could be for the EU to open up the Pet Passport scheme to stray dogs. Currently this is only used for pets accompanied by their owner. There is evidence to suggest that many people would be happy to adopt these animals.
Some work is being done in Greece by animal welfare activists to sterilise as many animals as they can. Within a period of 32 months 1 single female dog can engender 1,200 other dogs. This is an astonishing figure!
That's why I'm calling for more initiatives to manage and control the stray dog population at home and abroad. We need to support the sterilisation of animals as it is a more humane way of preventing the population from spiralling out of control.