Animal welfare aspects of killing and skinning seals - an update

At the request of the European Commission EFSA is assessing, from an animal welfare perspective, the scientific evidence about the different methods of killing and skinning seals. EFSA is looking objectively at whether any of these methods could be considered as humane; and which methods are likely to cause the least pain, distress or suffering. A working group of EFSA’s Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) Panel is preparing a report and draft opinion drawing on the available scientific data and information.

EFSA met with stakeholders on 4th October to discuss work in progress on this issue. Around 40 organisations from 11 countries attended from a broad cross-section of animal welfare groups, hunter associations, scientific institutions, industry bodies and national authorities, including Inuit representatives. The stakeholders reviewed and commented on the draft report, provided additional information and received clarification from the working group on details of the report.

All stakeholders have until 1st November to submit further data to be considered by the working group. EFSA aims to have the final report and a draft scientific opinion ready for consideration by the AHAW Panel at its December 2007 meeting. Comments and suggestions made by stakeholders will be taken into account in preparing the report and draft opinion.

Animal health and welfare is an essential part of EFSA’s overall mandate, which is wider than just food safety issues. This request from the Commission enables EFSA to contribute its scientific expertise on an important issue where an objective, independent evidence-based approach can play a valuable role in the decision making process. Stakeholders were reminded at the meeting that EFSA does not have a mandate to consider economical, social, cultural or other related issues, nor is EFSA the institution that decides on whether practices such as killing and skinning seals should be permitted or not.