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January 30, 2014

MEPs' Bid to Strengthen Animal Welfare in Proposed EU Invasive Alien Species Legislation

Move welcomed by Humane Society International

Humane Society International

  • Mink in the wrong environment can be problematic. Heather Fone/The HSUS

BRUSSELS—The European Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee has adopted a report that supports improving animal welfare provisions in the proposed EU regulation on invasive alien species. Humane Society International welcomes this move, but warns the law's ability to prevent future risks from alien species could be undermined by aggressive Danish lobbying for a derogation for animal farming.

There are more than 12,000 non-native alien species in the European Union, which the Commission estimates cost the EU more than €12 billion each year in damage. IAS are recognised as a major threat to biodiversity, but the methods used to remove these unwelcome species can often raise serious animal welfare concerns.

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Humane Society International’s EU director, Joanna Swabe, said:

"Protecting the EU's biodiversity from the significant threat posed by alien species is very important. We are delighted that ENVI Committee MEPs have recognised that animal welfare must not be sacrificed in an effort to tackle this problem. We agree with the Committee that the most humane control methods available must be used, including non-lethal methods, which can be more appropriate for dealing with vertebrate species.

However, we are disappointed to see Committee support for derogations that could seriously undermine the effectiveness of the Regulation. Aggressive lobbying on behalf of Denmark's mink fur farming industry has resulted in a derogation for all animal farming that can be so broadly interpreted as to give carte blanche to all manner of commercial animal breeding activities. Not only is this potentially disastrous for preventing future invasive alien species, but escaped American mink from fur farms are one of the most pervasive alien species the EU has to deal with. We urge Member States to be wise to this blatant attempt to exempt one of the worst offending industries and to reject any further attempts to weaken the impact of this Regulation."

In many cases, invasive alien species in the EU have found their way into the wild through deliberate or negligent human activity, such as the exotic pet trade and fur farming. Holding those responsible to account is important, not least to ensure that the perpetrators, and not EU tax payers, bear the costs of managing these species. The ENVI committee report supports including this principle, known as ‘polluter pays,’ in the legislation.

Following adoption of this ENVI Committee report, the Parliament will begin its ‘trialogue’ negotiations with the Council and Commission in a bid to conclude a first reading agreement before the end of the 2009-2014 Parliamentary term.


  • Some IAS are brought into the EU intentionally (e.g. exotic pets and plants), while others are introduced unintentionally (e.g. contaminants of goods, as hitchhikers or stowaways in transport vectors or accidentally through international travel). Both the exotic pet trade and the fur farming industry are acknowledged as being key pathways for IAS.
  • Escaping mink from EU fur farms has resulted in feral populations in most EU Member States. Mink are voracious predators and a threat to a wide variety of fish, birds and small mammals.
  • IAS threaten biodiversity by competing with native species for resources, through habitat alteration and degradation, being toxic, acting as a reservoir for parasites or a vector for pathogens, hybridising with related species or varieties, predating on native organisms or by altering local food webs.
  • The Convention on Biological Diversity has recognised IAS as being one of the major threats to biodiversity. Parties to the Convention are obliged to prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species, which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species. The proposed legislation seeks to meet the EU’s commitment to halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020.


Media contact: Wendy Higgins: +44 (0)7989 972 423, whiggins@hsi.org

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