Animal Welfare

Animal health care is part of Finland’s national quality strategy. The aim is to enhance the strengths of our food production chain, such as good animal health, limited use of medicines, and the safety and quality of food. The national quality strategy improves farm level monitoring, transparency and documentation. A short supply chain guarantees the transparency of production conditions and methods. The preventive health care of production animals also supports risk management on farms.

Cases keep emerging where production animals are kept in inadequate conditions. Public debate has focused on production methods, the standard of animal welfare, its supervision and violations of legislation. Promoting animal welfare requires actions and cooperation by many different parties.

The Rural Development Programme for Mainland Finland 2014–2020 sets out measures to promote the welfare of production animals. The measures include training, advisory services, agricultural investments and animal welfare payments.

Legislation

General animal welfare requirements are laid down in the Animal Welfare Act, the Animal Transport Act, the Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations, and the Act on the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific or Educational Purposes.

The objective of the Animal Welfare Act is to protect animals from distress, pain and suffering in the best possible way. It also aims to promote the welfare and good treatment of animals. Inflicting undue pain and distress on animals is prohibited. In addition, maintaining the health of animals must be promoted when keeping animals and the physiological and behavioural needs of the animals must be taken into account.

Authorities

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is the supreme authority steering and controlling the enforcement of and compliance with animal welfare legislation. The Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira) is the central government authority steering and controlling the enforcement of and compliance with the legislation. The Regional State Administrative Agencies oversee the compliance with legislation in their respective regions. At the local level, the authorities responsible for controlling animal welfare include municipal veterinarians, municipal health protection control officers and the police. Veterinary officers for meat inspection monitor compliance with animal welfare legislation at slaughterhouses and veterinary officers for border control at veterinary border inspection posts. Facilities carrying out animal experiments are monitored by the Regional State Administrative Agencies for Southern Finland and Eastern Finland.

For more information, please visit the website of the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira.

Laboratory animals

In Finland, animal testing is regulated under the Act and Decree on the Protection of Animals Used for Scientific or Educational Purposes.

The protection of laboratory animals is based on the principle of replacement, reduction and refinement (3R principle). Animal experiments are only permitted in cases where the targeted outcome cannot be obtained using another scientifically reliable method not involving the use of animals. If animal experiments are unavoidable, it should be ensured that the total numbers of animals used and the pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm caused to the animals are minimised.

Non-animal testing methods

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is funding a three-year programme aiming to develop and introduce cell-based research methods as alternatives to animal testing. The project is based on the Government Programme objective of promoting the development of alternative testing methods for animal experiments.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has supported the development of alternative testing methods for 28 years with more than €500,000. Last year, the Ministry granted €100,000 to the FICAM centre of expertise developing human-cell-based tissue and organ models to replace or complement animal experimentation.

Council on the protection of animals used for scientific or educational purposes

The purpose of the council on the protection of animals used for scientific or educational purposes is to promote the principle of replacement, reduction and refinement (“3R principle”). The council operates under the Regional State Administrative Agency for Southern Finland.

The task of the council is to monitor and promote the implementation of the principle of replacement, reduction and refinement. Based on its observations and views, the council issues proposals and statements to promote the principle. The council also gives statements on other important measures and proposals concerning the use and welfare of animals used for scientific or educational purposes.

Companion and Hobby Animal Welfare Council

The Companion and Hobby Animal Welfare Council operates under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. It assists the Ministry in issues and policies concerning the welfare of companion and hobby animals.

The council monitors and assesses how the welfare of companion and hobby animals develops in the society. It proposes measures to the Ministry to improve animal welfare and gives statements on projects and proposals concerning the welfare of companion and hobby animals. The council also plays a key role in promoting collaboration between the authorities and other operators in the field.

The purpose of the council is to raise awareness of the importance of companion and hobby animal welfare and the appreciation of animals in the society and to spark ethical debates on animal welfare issues.

Farm Animal Welfare Council

The Farm Animal Welfare Council operates under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. It assists the Ministry in issues and policies concerning the welfare of production animals.

The council monitors and assesses the level of production animal welfare in Finland. It proposes measures to the Ministry to improve animal welfare and gives statements on initiatives and proposals concerning the welfare of production animals.

The purpose of the council is to increase the importance of production animal welfare and the appreciation of animals in the society and to spark ethical debates on animal welfare issues. The council also plays a key role in promoting collaboration between the authorities and other operators in the field.

Animal Welfare Act under reform

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is reforming the Animal Welfare Act. The aim is to ensure that the partially outdated act meets the requirements of the current Constitution of Finland and to clarify animal welfare legislation. The comprehensive reform is a major project affecting several sectors of society. The reform will involve extensive dialogue and debate on ensuring animal welfare through legislation.

The proposal for a new act on animal welfare is expected in 2015.

 

Further information