EFSA animal health and welfare recommendations on the import of wild birds

The Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recommended that the need to continue the import of wild birds into the European Union (EU) should be carefully considered owing to both animal health and welfare concerns.

Although the probability can vary according to the captive wild bird species and the likelihood of infection in captivity, there is a high probability of some species carrying infectious animal diseases and transmitting them to other birds in the EU. In addition, there is generally a high mortality rate and widespread suffering amongst imported wild birds.

Before the EU import ban[1] on wild birds (excluding poultry) was put in place in 2005 over 800,000 wild birds per year were imported as pets, for show or for zoos. The European Commission has asked EFSA to carry out a risk assessment on both the animal health and welfare aspects associated with the import of such birds into the EU. The risk assessment principally focused on Avian Influenza, Newcastle Disease and Chlamydiosis. EFSA’s scientific advice will assist the European Commission and Member States in reviewing the continued need for the ban.

The Panel made the following main recommendations in order to reduce the risk of “exotic” animal diseases entering the EU through the import of wild birds other than poultry:

  • improvements in checks, traceability and quality control in third countries
  • testing of birds at point of entry into the EU
  • continued harmonisation and improvements in testing methods
  • improved containment and bio-security measures to avoid cross contamination during transport.

Concerning animal welfare the Panel said that:

  • significant improvements would need to be made in all aspects along the captivity-export pathway, particularly concerning conditions of capture, care and transport
  • it would be preferable to breed birds in captivity with high welfare standards rather than import birds captured in the wild which are often subject to poor conditions
  • in certain scenarios, the import of hatching eggs instead of animals would be preferred in order to reduce animal suffering.

The AHAW Panel carried out its risk assessment based on available data concerning the legal import of wild birds. The experts were not able to evaluate the impact of illegal imports due to the lack of available data.

[1] Commission decisions 2005/759 , 2005/760 amended by 2006/522 .

Media contacts