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New chapter for the welfare of captive wild animals


Expert conference on wild animals in captivity calls for comprehensive action among all stakeholders.

Following two-day conference on the welfare of wild animals in captivity, wildlife experts call on the EU to support higher standards for these animals, proper enforcement of existing legislation and adequate training.

© Foto Hoeller

From 19-20 June 2013, animal welfare organisations FOUR PAWS and the Born Free Foundation co-hosted a Conference on Wild Animals in Captivity in the EU, Welfare, Law and Enforcement, held in Representation of the State of Lower-Saxony to the EU.

Supported by the NGO Humane Society International (HSI), the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) and the European Coalition ENDCAP,  the organisers gathered more than 100 delegates, representing the EU institutions, the Member States, the animal welfare industry, zoos, academia and other interest groups to address this important issue.The aim of the Conference was to share knowledge, discuss problems, examine examples of good practice and identify workable solutions on both an EU and national level aimed at improving the lives of wild animals in captivity.
Delegates agreed that hundreds of thousands of wild animals continue to be housed in poor to appalling conditions, which fail to meet their most basic of needs. Such conditions also cause anguish amongst members of the public who write in their thousands to voice their concerns about the poor welfare standards they witness. Unfortunately until now the response of the authorities has been inconsistent, patchy and, in some cases, absent.

Delegates recognised that the harmonising of minimum welfare standards, an approach that has been applied to farm animals, is also needed for captive wild animals. 


“This Conference has built the foundations of a common European understanding of the human-animal relationship”, says Marlene Wartenberg, Director European Policy Office VIER PFOTEN in Brussels. “The common understanding of animal welfare in Europe has, since the Lisbon Treaty and Article13, recognised animals as sentient beings. A clear ban of wild animals in circuses correlates with this understanding.”
The European Commission has acknowledged this important status by commissioning and issuing the EU Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015, and, for the first time, including provisions for the welfare and protection of wild animals in captivity.  

Although the responsibility for regulating animal protection laws resides with each Member States, investigations, such as those undertaken as part of the Born Free Foundation's EU Zoo Inquiry, revealed that Competent Authorities are under-resourced, lack specific knowledge and do not often have the expertise necessary to bring about the changes anticipated by the EU Zoos Directive, shortcoming in capacity that must be talked through training, guidance, the setting of standards and through effective enforcement.
This Conference indicated the measures necessary for the EU to move in the right direction. As a result of the discussions that took place, the delegates have agreed that a new common strategy is needed and a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder effort is required to improve the welfare of wild animals in captivity in Europe.

"Europe's forgotten animals, the millions of wild animals that languish in zoos, circuses, rescue centres, sanctuaries and those that are kept as exotic 'pets', are no longer forgotten. From now on, a powerful combination of Member State representatives, EU officials, parliamentarians, wildlife professionals, veterinarians and animal advocates will be leading a concerted effort to secure effective and practical measures to end the suffering. I invite everyone who cares about the plight of captive wild animals to join us", says Will Travers CEO of the Born Free Foundation.
The results of the Conference, presentations and conclusions will soon be available at