Federal minister Christian Schmidt, Gert Lindemann and Inge Böhne present the interim report Together with Inge Böhne, a specialist for pigs with her own practice for small animals and farm animals, Gert Lindemann, Chairman of the Group of Experts, hands over the interim report to Federal Minister Christian Schmidt, Source: BMEL/Holger Groß

Recommendations for more animal welfare

On 22 January 2015, Federal Minister Schmidt received the first interim report drawn up by the "Group of Experts on Animal Welfare". Minister Schmidt had tasked the Group of Experts on Animal Welfare with flanking his animal welfare initiative and making proposals on how animal welfare in Germany could be improved.

Headed by the former Agriculture Minister of Lower Saxony, Gert Lindeman, the group is of particular help to the BMEL in assessing the impact of policy measures and in establishing indicators. On 6 October 2014, the Group of Experts met in Berlin for its first session.

"I wish to express my thanks to the Group of Experts for the commitment it has shown in recent months and for its recommendations," said Federal Minister Schmidt during the presentation. "We now have numerous initiatives in place that all share the same goal: achieving better husbandry conditions for farm animals. I therefore gladly take on board the Group of Experts' request for tighter coordination between the Federal Government's animal welfare initiatives and those of the Länder. I am willing to integrate the Länder initiatives into my animal welfare initiative 'Minding animals'."

The Group of Experts presents five initial recommendations in this interim report, the exact wording of which is available at "Downloads".

Here are the recommendations with brief explanations.

Slogan der Initiative Eine Frage der Haltung - neue Wege für mehr Tierwohl

1. Animal welfare must be measurable

Animal protection and welfare should be made more measurable by establishing a basis of verifiable facts.

To this end, a so-called animal welfare indicator system should be developed and implemented to ensure monitoring of animal welfare in livestock husbandry throughout the country.

2. The Federal Government must pool existing initiatives in a "Federal Government-Länder initiative"

The fact that there are so many of ongoing trials and activities run by the Federal Government and the Länder means that the Federal Government and the Länder need to draw up a joint animal welfare plan in order to pool the current Federal Government/Länder initatives and specify uniform time frames.

The Group of Experts deems it necessary that the Federal Government and the Länder prepare a joint overview of all Länder initiatives, round tables and animal welfare plans. This overview should also comprise the different support schemes, research activities and model and demonstration projects run by the Länder.

3. There must be an end to non-curative interventions

The Group of Experts provides particular guidance on what should be borne in mind in the voluntary agreements to end non-curative interventions. Partial solutions, for instance, should be taken forward as verifiable interim steps. Training of, and advice to farmers, case-by-case recommendations, knowledge transfer and guidance documents provide an important foundation.

Voluntary agreements must contain specific deadlines and measurable steps. They must provide for a regular evaluation and impact assessment.

4. Testing and approval procedures for housing equipment

The aim is that, following an adequate transitional period, all mass-produced housing equipment will be tested before being placed on the market.

At present, this procedure has, as an initial step, only been planned for laying hen husbandry. The Group of Experts recommends that pullets and parent animals should also be involved right from the very beginning. An extension of the scheme to cover other farm animals should be envisaged.

5. Focus on trade

The Federal Government should, among other things, examine the possibility of rejecting foods in international trade that have been produced in breach of animal welfare provisions.

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