Commission: prevention, not cure, key to animal health
Stung by recent episodes of devastating outbreaks among Europe's livestock, public officials have drafted a comprehensive policy aimed at avoiding disease before it starts. The recently signed Community Animal Health Policy places citizen safety first whilst ensuring that the market remains strong. One important aspect of the policy is an emphasis on biosecurity measures for early detection.
The old adage 'prevention is better than a cure' is at the heart of the new Community Animal Health Policy adopted by the European Commission on 19 September.
The strategy, which covers the period 2007 to 2013, places a strong emphasis on precautionary measures, disease surveillance, controls and research. With these tools, the Commission hopes to reduce the incidence of animal disease and minimise the impacts of outbreaks when they occur.
A well-informed public
'People are more aware of animal health issues today than ever before, and have a greater understanding of the direct effect that it can have on their lives,' said Markos Kyprianou, EU Commissioner for Health. 'Animal health has implications for human health, food safety, economic prosperity and ethical values.'
The new policy also takes into account developments from recent years, including the enlargement of the EU; the emergence of new diseases; an increase in the trade of animals and animal products; and the latest advances in science and technology.
The policy applies to all animals in the EU, whether they are kept for food, sport, entertainment, as pets or in zoos. Wild animals and animals used for research are also covered, as are any animals transported to, from or through the EU. This is because animal diseases are not limited to specific groups of animals, and a health problem for one category of animals could pose a threat for other groups.
'Through the new Community Animal Health Policy the aim is to serve public health and achieve the highest possible level of animal health and welfare in the EU,' added Mr Kyprianou. 'Our goal is to reduce the threats that certain diseases pose, and to ensure that any animal health measure taken over the next six years offers maximum benefit for EU citizens.'
Promoting science and innovation is a key pillar of the new strategy, and a number of research activities in the animal health field are already underway. These include the European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health, the call for the creation of an ERA-NET on animal health and an information platform on the protection and welfare of animals.
New activities outlined in the policy include boosting the activities of the European Food Safety Authority in the field of animal health, and supporting research in third countries into exotic diseases and animal diseases that could pose a threat to human health. The Commission also plans to establish a European Centre on Animal Welfare to coordinate and stimulate research for improving existing standards.
The Commission also plans to boost biosecurity on farms, at borders and during transport. Monitoring and surveillance will be increased, and emergency preparedness will be reinforced.
In addition to this, the Commission will revise its approach to import-controls on animals and animal products, and work to clamp down on the illegal trade in these products. At the same time, the EU will provide extra assistance to third countries in order to help them improve animal health and food safety, with the goal of improving the safety of the products they send to the EU.
The new strategy was designed to fit the budget already set aside for animal health under the EU's financial perspectives for 2007 to 2013. Funding will amount to over 400 million per year from 2008 onwards.
The new policy will now be discussed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, both of whom are expected to deliver an opinion by the end of the year. Meanwhile the Commission will draw up a more detailed Action Plan setting out how it plans to meet the objectives set out in the strategy.
Sources: CORDIS, EC
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