Last changed: 18 February 2020

EUWelNet was a project co-financed by the European Commission (DG SANCO 2012/10293) and studied the feasibility of a coordinated European animal welfare network. The project addressed the following objectives; briefly: identify bottlenecks/ difficulties in implementing a few examples of EU legislation on animal welfare; develop and test knowledge transfer strategies to overcome bottlenecks; analyse and make recommendations on the feasibility and conditions for the above coordinated network.

Activities towards these objectives were carried out in 4 partly parallel Work Packages (WPs). The choice of legislations addressed (Council Directives 2008/120/EC and 2007/43 for the protection of pigs and broiler chickens, respectively, and Council Regulation EC1099/2009 on protection at the time of killing), reflects the existence of clear bottlenecks in their implementation, their effects on animal welfare in a range of species and all MSs, and the development of knowledge transfer solutions that are likely to be achievable. Of course, given the restricted timeframe of the project it was clearly not possible to run in-depth, long-term evaluation of the knowledge strategies developed in terms of their immediate contribution to the implementation of EU legislation. Instead, we developed practical indicators to not only allow preliminary assessment within the project but also, more importantly, to enable future detailed evaluation of progress.

We established a particularly strong and experienced consortium of 26 widely respected partners in 16 countries, and designed an effective management structure. Many of these partners had already worked fruitfully together so the project 'hit the ground running'. Our Advisory Board ensured two-way dialogue with important stakeholders (competent authorities (CA), EU institutions, international organisations, industry groups, NGOs etc), transparency, relevance, quality and reach, and an increased likelihood of knowledge transfer.

We collect and analysed data to identify relevant public and private actors, difficulties in implementation of selected legislations (with particular attention to problems related to knowledge gaps), and the measures taken to address non-compliance.

We also aimed to develop and test different strategies (training, e-learning, educational material, improved SOPs) designed to transfer knowledge to Competent Authorities and other stakeholders to improve the level of understanding and implementation of the above legislations.

Finally we involved virtually all partners in collating, analysing (in terms of achievability and cost/benefits) and reporting the outcomes of this pilot study to provide overarching conclusions and recommendations on the feasibility, likely roles, benefits and effectiveness of a coordinated network, and the conditions under which the EU could support it.

The project concluded as follows:

  • Societal demands for improved farm animal welfare are increasingly important and must be realised within economically viable and environmentally friendly production systems. Effective knowledge transfer and innovative strategies are essential to satisfy the welfare requirements under these constraints.
  • EUWelNet demonstrated that a coordinated network of universities and research institutes can work successfully together and deliver valuable support for the implementation of European legislation on animal welfare. EUWelNet effectively identified difficulties and bottlenecks and created innovative knowledge strategies to overcome them.
  • A future network based on this concept would support knowledge exchange and common investment in knowledge creation among key actors and agencies across the European food-chain. It would also become a think tank and facilitator of collaboration and innovation.
  • This will not only improve animal welfare but also enhance performance, product quality and the competitiveness of European animal producers.

In view of the outcomes of EUWelNet and the additional advantages identified, the consortium and its Advisory Board strongly recommend that a coordinated network of reference centres should be established, with a proper annual budget and with a mission to contribute to safeguarding and improving the welfare of animals in Europe by supporting competent authorities and other stakeholders in the implementation of EU legislation.

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Contact: Harry Blokhuis

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