Extensive changes demanded in animal welfare rules
Experts say ministry decisions violate spirit of animal protection law
A number of experts interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat say that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry interprets animal protection legislation in a manner that is not compatible with the spirit of the law.
“The animal protection law and statute are mainly in order, even though there are drawbacks and weaknesses in them”, says Birgitta Wahlberg of the Turku-based Swedish-language university Åbo Akademi.
Decrees and decisions of the ministry are another matter. “They eat away at the good that is written into the animal protection law. Requirements set by the ministry are so minimal that animal welfare does not benefit from it in practice”, Wahlberg says.
Wahlberg is working on a doctoral thesis, in which she is studying whether or not orders from the ministry violate the animal protection law. She has also found significant shortcomings in enforcement.
She says that the law is not being interpreted in a manner that would be in the best interests of animals.
“Other factors affect it, such as the economic situation of the owner.”
According to Laura Hänninen, the director of the Finnish Centre for Animal Welfare, there has been discussion at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of the possibility of rewriting animal welfare legislation.
“This would require years of work, as all of the various animal species would have to be included.”
A consultative committee on the welfare of agricultural production animals started its work on Wednesday. One of its tasks will be to consider extensive changes to the law on animal protection.
“It will require discussion in society on the foundation of values that the rules will be linked to, compared with the thinking that prevailed when the present rules were drawn up”, Hänninen says.
“The law and the statute are good. They have tough language. But when we go to the level of directions given by the ministry - when we speak about millimetres and centimetres - then the directions are partially obsolete, and even in conflict with the spirit of the law and the statutes.”
Hänninen mentions a number of regulations that she considers obsolete. For instance, the minimum living space that pigs are required to have is too small to meet the animals’ physiological and behavioural needs.
Special cages are used in Finland for sows that have just given birth. The cages are designed so that the mother will not roll over the piglets. Such cages are banned in Sweden.
Hänninen would also like to launch a discussion on the need for routine castration of boars.
“It is inevitably a very painful procedure, which is banned in some European countries. There are stores in The Netherlands which will not sell the meat of castrated boars.”
The Finnish animal rights group Oikeutta eläimille (“Justice for Animals”) have released a number of photographs depicting shortcomings in animal protection at Finnish pig farms. The photographs were shown on a current affairs television programme of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) on Wednesday evening.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Three Finnish pig farms may face charges over violation of animal welfare legislation (4.3.2008)
Anttila promises extensive improvements in conditions on pig farms (26.11.2009)
Police to investigate reports of serious animal cruelty at Finnish farms (30.11.2007)