EFSA to prepare a scientific opinion on the animal welfare aspects of killing and skinning seals

The European Commission has asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for a scientific opinion on the animal welfare aspects of methods for killing and skinning seals currently being used in EU and non-EU countries. EFSA has also been asked to assess the most appropriate killing methods for seals that will avoid or reduce any unnecessary pain, distress and suffering. In its opinion, EFSA’s Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) will review and evaluate all the methods from a scientific point of view and intends to prepare a draft opinion for consultation in September 2007, with the aim of adopting the opinion by December 2007. EFSA will limit its opinion to the scientific aspects related to the animal health and welfare issues related to the killing and skinning of seals, as the Authority’s legal mandate does not include societal or ethical aspects of animal welfare. EFSA will also work closely with the animal health and welfare panel of the Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food safety which will provide data and input to EFSA on its opinion.

Although EFSA’s scientific work in respect to animal health and welfare issues is mainly in relation to the food chain, the Authority also addresses issues in other areas. The opinion on seals will cover the scientific aspects related to the humane killing and skinning of seals, and will measure, as far as is scientifically possible, the degree of pain, distress and suffering that may be caused by each method. It will also assess the most appropriate and suitable killing methods for seals so that animals will not be caused to suffer unnecessary pain and distress, or other adverse effects. EFSA recognizes that there are many societal and ethical views and concerns relating to these issues. However, an EFSA scientific opinion does not take into consideration socio-economic, cultural or ethical factors, as these are outside the authority’s legal mandate.

EFSA has started to collect reliable data on methods currently applied in killing seals and will consider all data sources including animal welfare organizations, governmental and private bodies in the EU and third countries. EFSA intends to hold a public consultation on the draft opinion, including a meeting with stakeholders, in September 2007, in order to ensure that all scientific information is taken into account in its final opinion. The AHAW Panel aims at adopting its opinion by December 2007

Mandate from the European Commission

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