Council Regulation (EEC) No 3254/91 prohibits the use of leghold traps in the European Union and the introduction into the EU of pelts and manufactured goods of certain wild animal species originating in countries which catch them by means of leghold traps or trapping methods which do not meet international humane trapping standards. The EU Member States have designated national Competent Authorities to implement this Regulation.
The regulation, commonly known as the Leghold Trap Regulation, is completed by Commission Decision (98/596/EC) listing those countries from which specific animal pelts and manufactured goods can be accepted. This Decision allows the imports of furs into the EU from countries that prohibit the use of leghold traps, or from countries where the trapping methods used for the listed species meet internationally agreed humane trapping standards.
In 1997 the EU concluded an Agreement with Canada and the Russian Federation on international humane trapping standards. The Agreement was inspired by the desire to agree on international humane trapping standards as well as to avoid trade disputes with the main international fur exporters. The aim of the established humane trapping standards is to ensure a sufficient level of welfare of trapped animals, and to further improve this welfare.
The EU ratified the Agreement in 1998, followed by the Government of Canada in 1999 and the Russian Federation in 2008, which allowed the Agreement to enter into force in July 2008 and the schedule for the implementation of the provisions to start from that date.
Each Party must implement the commitments and obligations arising from this Agreement in accordance with its internal procedures. Accordingly, the EU, Canada, the Russian Federation and the USA are committed to establish appropriate processes for testing and certifying trapping methods in accordance with the international humane trapping standards. Furthermore, the use of traps that are not certified in accordance with humane trapping standards must be prohibited within an agreed timetable. The Parties must promote research on the ongoing development of the standards and the Agreement also obliges the Parties to improve scientific knowledge for evaluating the welfare of trapped animals.
The European Commission receives information on the implementation of the Agreement by Canada, the Russian Federation and the USA.
The European Commission adopted in July 2004 a proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council introducing humane trapping standards for certain animal species to harmonise in the EU the commitments and obligations arising from these international engagements. Because the use of all leghold traps is already prohibited within the EU, this proposal only applied to traps other than leghold traps for catching animals belonging to the 19 species listed in the Annexes to the Agreement. However, this proposal was rejected by the European Parliament in the first parliamentary reading. The main argument justifying the rejection was that the proposal was not based on the latest available science.
Noting that there was a clear request for better explaining and substantiating the scientific base for the proposal, the European Commission decided that it would undertake a comprehensive study looking at the scientific aspects raised by the European Parliament before considering the way forward. The final report of such study on trapping describes the state of the art of research, science and application of humane trapping standards referred to in the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards and described in the European Commission proposal in view of identifying the improved trapping standards which reduce unnecessary pain, distress and suffering of trapped animals as much as technically possible.
The European Commission decided to withdraw its proposal, with legal effect on 2 June 2012. Despite the withdrawal, the European Commission fully commits to continued engagement on humane trapping standards.