ANIMAL WELFARE AND THE TREATY OF AMSTERDAM
The 1957 Treaty of Rome was the first legal base for the European Community. It is periodically revised to take account of changes, such as the moves towards the Single European market in 1993. The latest revision of the Treaty of Rome took place under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), and resulted in the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Treaty, agreed in June 1997, was officially signed by the Member States of the European Union on 2 October 1997 and entered into force on first May 1999.
Introduction of the Protocol on Animal Welfare
The most important aspect of the Amsterdam Treaty, in terms of animal welfare, was the inclusion of a Protocol on animal welfare.
The Protocol reads as follows:
"The High Contracting Parties,
Desiring to ensure improved protection and respect for the welfare of animals as sentient beings, have agreed upon the following provision, which shall be annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community, in formulating and implementing the Community's agricultural, transport, internal market and research policies, the Community and the Member States shall pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage".
Prior to the agreement of this Protocol, the only reference to animal welfare in the Treaty was a Declaration.
In contrast to the Declaration, the Protocol creates clear legal obligations to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals and, for the first time, refers to them as sentient beings.
Unfortunately, the Treaty still provides no legal basis for the introduction of legislation specifically intended to improve the welfare of animals and, therefore animal welfare-related legislation at EU level has to be based on other specific objectives of EU policy, such as the common agricultural policy, the internal market, and the environment.
Therefore, the Protocol does not place animal welfare on the same footing as issues such as the environment or consumer affairs, for example. The protocol also leaves Member States free to introduce national legislation (the principle of subsidiarity applies) on issues such as animal welfare in circuses, equine competitions, greyhound racing, hunting with hounds, and bullfighting.
Possible derogations from the Protocol, in the case of religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage, may reduce the effect of the Protocol in these areas. However, it does not rule out consideration of animal welfare altogether. The requirement is merely to "respect" legislative or administrative provisions in these areas.
Courtesy of Eurogroup for Animal Welfare