Not only Wuhan in China. Animals in Europe also suffer needlessly

2020 - 06 - 19

The probable source of coronavirus Covid-19 at an overcrowded market with exotic animals in the Chinese city of Wuhan has drawn attention to the conditions that animals in this Asian country are subjected to. Footage of animals in a sorry state in cages and poor hygiene conditions that prevail at these markets could lead people to believe that animals suffer in a similar way only in faraway Asia. However, there is also room for improvement in this area in Europe.

Cruel treatment of animals and improper conditions are also commonplace in Europe. “Fur farms are a typical example. Predators are one of the species that suffer a lot in confined space. Moreover, their escapes into the wild leads to the spread of non-indigenous species like the American mink. The expansion then significantly damages the biodiversity in Europe”, claims Dalibor Dostal, the director of European Wildlife, a conservation organization.

Although some countries of the European Union have banned the breeding of animals for their fur, it is still legal in many other countries. “A European-wide ban should be adopted in this area”, added Dalibor Dostal.

There is also considerable room for improvement in terms of how farm animals are treated. For example, Europe still has not been able to enforce a ban on the long-distance transport of livestock.

In addition, the European legislation still does not allow sensitive treatment of animals that graze on pastures all year round. “Animals that are not used to being handled or are not used to coming into close contact with humans suffer needlessly when being transported to slaughterhouses. Loading, transport, the related handling beforehand and the subsequent handling at the slaughterhouses cause unimaginable and needless stress to these animals. Allowing animals that graze on pastures all year around to be slaughtered directly on the pastures would be an imperative step to ensuring their welfare throughout their lives, including the final phase”, stated Miloslav Jirku from the Biological Centre at the Czech Academy of Sciences.

The legislation in force makes this impossible by banning hunting on pastures. “The result is a practice based on death transports. This is not an exaggeration. Large mammals are generally very clever and have the same spectrum of emotions as people. They express happiness, they love their young but they are also afraid and suffer from fear just like we do. They are very afraid when being transported to slaughterhouses”, added Miloslav Jirku from the Biological Centre at the Czech Academy of Sciences.

No matter how inhumane hunting animals by shooting them may sound, the opposite is true. “Hunting a non-suspecting animal on the pasture allows the animal to stay happily on its home pasture until the end, without any stress. If the hunt is conducted professionally, it doesn’t cause any stress to the other animals in the herd either”, says Miloslav Jirku, in an attempt to set the record straight on this widespread idea.

Moreover, the stress of animals before their slaughter has a significantly negative impact on the quality of their meat. “Experienced butchers have confirmed that there is a difference between the meat that comes from happy animals and the meat that comes from stressed animals. Enabling the production of meat from happy animals, so-called “happy meat“, is a fundamental debt that the European Union owes to farm animals and it should be an immediate priority of the institutions and bureaus that are in charge at the European Union level and also the responsibility of the individual member states”, added Miloslav Jirku.

The approach of European authorities is also worsening the conditions for some wild species that are bred in captivity. According to the European legislation, all bovines must have ear tags. This includes all wild animals, like the European bison or African buffalo.

While veterinary administrations grant exceptions when it comes to applying ear tags to wild bovines in most countries, officers in some countries or regions strictly enforce these regulations. “Bison with large ear tags is an unfavourable reminder of European bureaucracy. Putting ear tags on and the related handling of these animals is very stressful for them, it is technically and financially demanding and, above all, puts the animals and staff at risk. Moreover, if the animals are bred in natural conditions, the large ear tags are usually torn out when the animals walk through bushes, scratch themselves on trees or do anything similar. Repeated application of ear tags represents a considerably higher burden for the animals and for the breeders”, adds Miloslav Jirku. He said that we live at a time when animals can be identified using modern methods and these ear tags are obsolete and outdated for animals living in the wild.

According to experts, in Europe, the European Parliament and the European Commission should deal with improving the conditions for farm animals and animals that live in the wild. “The next time we see horrible footage from Chinese markets, we should realise that there are still many animals needlessly suffering in Europe as well. China has shut down its markets with exotic animals, so Europe should also do its utmost to change the current practices”, concluded Dalibor Dostal.

Photo: Wikimedia /  Oikeutta-eläimille

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