Animal welfare inspections based on sampling 2010

The types of shortcomings found in animal care found during animal welfare inspections in 2010 were mostly the same as in previous years, but their number was higher. Instead of municipal veterinary surgeons, the inspections were conducted by provincial veterinary officers specialised in control measures and appointed by Regional State Administrative Agencies.

In 2010, 690 production animal farms underwent so-called EU animal welfare inspections, with the living conditions of almost 600,000 individual animals scrutinised. For the first time, provincial veterinary officers from Regional State Administrative Agencies were responsible for the inspections. During 2010, Evira organised several training courses for new provincial veterinary officers, dealing with the legislation and conducting the inspections both at theoretical level and in practical field conditions. Shorter training and discussion events will also be organised regularly in the future, in order to ensure the uniformity of the control measures across regional borders.

The fact that the inspections were carried out by specialised and trained veterinarians was not only evident in the uniform approach to control, but also in the number of incidents of neglect found. Practices contravening animal welfare regulations were reported in 2010 on a total of 28 per cent of inspected farms, while the average for recent years has been 20 per cent. However, control measures and education have shown results, as in the first half of the 2000s, the annual rate of cases of neglect in animal keeping exceeded 30 per cent of inspected farms.

The problems affecting individual animal species found at EU animal welfare inspections in 2010 are mostly the same as in previous years. In the case of sheep and goats, the results improved on the year before, whereas with other animal species, the proportion of cases of neglect rose clearly. Cases of neglect demanding urgent action in order to ensure animal welfare were found on two cattle farms.

Risk-based sampling raises percentage of neglect cases

EU animal welfare inspection’ is an established term for inspections the European Union obliges the member countries to organise on their production animal farms. These inspections concern the compliance with regulations covering the entire national animal welfare legislation. About a quarter of the farms are selected for inspection through random sampling and the rest based on risk factors defined for each animal species. It is likely that risk-based sampling increases the number of cases of neglect found at inspections.

In 2010, 886 farms were designated for inspection, which is about 1.5 per cent of all cattle farms in the country, 8 per cent of pig farms, 7 per cent of egg-producing farms, about 7 per cent of duck and goose farms, about 2 per cent of sheep and goat farms, and 6 per cent of fur producers. At about 10 per cent of the designated farms it was not possible to carry out the inspection, because there were no animals on the farm at the time. These farms had either recently discontinued animal husbandry completely, or the farm was experiencing a break of some length from production. The numbers of reported inspections only include farms with livestock.

EU animal welfare inspections on farms began in Finland in 1998 with inspections of calf-rearing and pig farms. The inspections have been extended every year to cover new species of production animals, and in 2009 the inspections already covered eight species. In 2010, adult bovines came under scrutiny as well as calves, and in 2011, EU animal welfare inspections will be extended to cover broiler farms. In future years, the inspections will be extended to cover all production animals.