Animal welfare inspections based on sampling at production farms

The member states of the EU control the compliance with the minimum welfare requirements for production animals by conducting every year inspections on a representative number of production farms. Some of the farms are selected on a random basis, others on the basis of certain risk factors defined for the different species. The inspections were until 2009 conducted by municipal veterinarians under order of the provincial governments. As of the year 2010 the responsibility for the EU animal welfare inspections rests with the 15 new provincial veterinarians employed by the Regional State Administrative Agencies.

The purpose is to conduct a detailed inspection of compliance with valid animal welfare regulations. If violations are found in the inspections, the producer is ordered to rectify the violation within a certain time, after which the farm is inspected again. Violations can be related to deficient records, shortage of stimulation materials, structural inadequacies in the housing of the animals or an excessive number of animals for the space available, for example. If necessary, urgent action is taken to ensure the wellbeing of the animals; this may include providing feed and water to the animals or a carer in the farm or transferring the animals elsewhere for care. If the care of the animals cannot be organised or is considered to be pointless, the animals can be destroyed or sent for slaughter.

EU animal welfare inspections started in 1998, first in calf and pig farms. Fur farms and laying farms with more than 350 hens have been inspected since 2000. In 2008 – 2009 the scope of the inspections was extended to cover also duck and goose farms as well as sheep and goat farms. In 2010 also adult cows were inspected, in addition to calves, and the inspections of broiler chickens will start in 2011. In the future, EU animal welfare inspections will be conducted also on other production animal species.