Ever more blatant smuggling of animals

30.5.2013

<p>Illegally imported animals may be carriers of serious animal diseases, capable of endangering both human and animal health. It is estimated that poultry and other animals are smuggled into Finland on a regular basis. If the origin of the animal is unclear, the buyer may unwittingly be supporting illegal activities.</p>

The importer and the keeper of the animal are always personally responsible for compliance with legal provisions. If the importation is illegal, the importer may be made liable for costs, which can be considerable if a disease spreads to major production units.

The arrival of Newcastle disease in Finland would lead to costs amounting to millions

Currently there is no Newcastle disease in Finland and poultry is not vaccinated against it. Among the EU Member States only Sweden is in an equally fortunate position. Newcastle disease numbers among the most serious infectious diseases affecting poultry. In the worst case scenario it would be capable of compromising a large extent of Finnish poultry production. The need to combat the disease and to launch a vaccination programme would mean that the State and the industry itself would have to bear costs rising to millions of euros.

Illegally imported chicks, for example, can bring into the country other diseases as well, such as salmonella, bird flu or infectious bronchitis (IB). These can all endanger the health of other animals, and some are capable of infecting humans, too.

Increasing risk to professional poultry farming

In recent years, people without previous experience of production animals have become increasingly interested in keeping hens and other birds. Although there have not been any registrations of legally imported new bird breeds, new breeds have started to appear in Finland. This indicates illegal imports. Contagion is possible not just by direct animal contact, but also indirectly through wind, people, tools or for instance from vehicles. This increases the risk of infections spreading to large-scale poultry production units.

In the last couple of years there have been widespread infections of infectious bronchitis (IB) and infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) in small hobby flocks. Illegal imports are the one most significant threat to Finland’s good status in animal diseases.

A pet hen is a production animal

Under law even pet hens, pigs, sheep, goats and cows are production animals and as such they are subject to the same regulations as their counterparts in large-scale production facilities. A keeper, be it of only a single animal, is obliged to register with the municipal rural business authority as keeper of animals. Furthermore, certain conditions have been imposed on the import of animals to Finland, and these apply equally to small import consignments.

Further information on the subject:
Evira.fi > Animals > Import and export > EU member countries, Norway and Switzerland

Further information: 
Jaana Vuolle, Senior Inspector, tel. +358 40 489 3322

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