Important achievements, but further progress is needed - Djurens Rätt on the new Swedish Animal Welfare Act
On 11 January 2018, the Swedish Government decided on a proposal for an updated and modernized Animal Welfare Act which will then be forwarded to the Council on Legislation. Djurens Rätt welcomes the positive amendments that concern abandoned cats, elephants and sea lions at circuses and that minks at fur farms are also included, but expects more initiatives in the future for animals in Sweden.
The new Animal Welfare Act is based mainly on a government report (SOU 2011:75) resulting from an animal welfare investigation which was presented in 2011. The report was also presented yesterday by the minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Sven-Erik Bucht and Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin in DN Debatt.
– We are pleased that the Government has incorporated several of our initiatives and that progress has been made. We are also pleased that the Government considers that the minks’ situation must be improved, that the Government has made it clear that animals must not be abandoned, that a ban on the use of elephants and sea lions at circuses has been introduced, and that Lex Maja will become a reality. It is also positive that the new Animal Welfare Act stresses the importance of the natural behaviour of animals, says Camilla Björkbom, Chairman of Djurens Rätt.
At the same time, more needs to be done, according to Djurens Rätt.
–Animal issues are important to many Swedes, and must be given consideration in the political sphere. We would have preferred a ban on fur farming in Sweden instead of an investigation, but we look forward to receiving the full proposal for new animal protection legislation and hope that what the Government now proposes will result in real improvements for animals, says Camilla Björkbom.
Djurens Rätt’s comments on the proposals in the new Animal Welfare Act
- It is extremely positive that the Government has proposed the introduction of an explicit prohibition on the abandoning of domesticated animals and that it is made clear that abandoned and feral cats are covered by the Animal Welfare Act. We assume that the requirement for the marking and registration of cats will also be introduced in the future.
- The Government has decided, in addition to the proposal for the new Animal Welfare Act, to give the Swedish Board of Agriculture the task of evaluating the welfare of mink in fur production. It is very gratifying that improved conditions for fur animals are a priority for the Government – although Isabella Lövin’s statement that the mink trade does not need to "worry", lowers expectations. For today there is knowledge and evidence of shortcomings with regard to minks’ welfare. An important step to take to improve their situation would be to introduce a requirement that they would have access to water to swim in.
- We are very pleased that the Government has proposed that it should be possible for employees in the health care services and the social services for example to report serious animal welfare problems to the animal welfare inspection authorities and to the police. Lex Maja is eagerly awaited!
- The Government agrees with the animal welfare investigation’s assessment that the practical conditions required to keep elephants and sea lions at circuses in a way that allows the animals to behave naturally are lacking and therefore suggests that the prohibition for certain animals in circuses is extended to include these species. This is a positive move. But an overwhelming proportion of Swedes are behind an explicit prohibition of all wild animals used in the circus and more steps are needed in Sweden in order to keep up with developments internationally. An alternative would be a so-called "positive list", a list of species which may be displayed in a circus, not ones that are forbidden, as is the case today.
- What has been written about strengthening the protection of animals in connection with training and competitions is a positive step, for example, the suggestion that a ban should be introduced on the maiming of animals, and on the use of equipment that can cause animal suffering or injury in connection with training and competitions. How this is actually put into practice will be interesting to see.
- We are pleased it has been made clear that animals should have the opportunity to behave naturally, and that behavioural disorders shall be prevented. We also hope that the proposals put forward by the animal welfare investigation, regarding requirements that animals should be kept untethered, will become a reality, this is because keeping animals tethered (more than occasionally) strongly limits their opportunities for natural behaviour.
- We share the Government’s assessment that knowledge of animals is very important for good animal husbandry and we welcome a new requirement that people involved in the care of animals shall have the requisite skills to meet their needs.