From 23 to 26 May 2019, citizens of the European Union (EU) will elect a new European Parliament. The EU has some of the world’s highest animal welfare standards with animals recognized as sentient beings in the Lisbon Treaty. Animals, both domestic and wild, contribute significantly to human development, and their welfare supports human wellbeing in all its forms, both material and non-material.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) represent citizens’ interests in the EU decision-making process, including calls for improved animal welfare and conservation policies, as well as the allocation of appropriate funding to strengthen the EU’s role as a global leader contributing to a better world for animals, people and the planet.
MEPs should ensure the integration of animal welfare and biodiversity protection into EU policy through the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a strong 8th Environmental Action Programme, a revision of the EU Animal Welfare Strategy, and responsible international trade and multilateral environmental agreements.
A world of peaceful coexistence between species cannot be achieved unless human development and animal welfare agendas ultimately overlap.
IFAW Manifesto – What should be the EU’s priorities?
The International Fund for Animal Welfare calls on candidates to the European Parliament elections, to acknowledge the critical role that ecosystems and animals play, especially considering that European policies can have far-reaching, if not global, impacts.
We, therefore, believe the following themes should be on the EU’s list of priorities:
Wildlife crime is the fourth largest illegal global trade after drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking, worth an estimated 8 to 20 billion Euros annually. Trafficking in wildlife is one of the world’s most profitable organized criminal activities and even poses a direct security threat in some parts of the world.
The EU is not only a top destination and transit for illegal wildlife items, but is also an important source region. In response, the EU adopted a five-year Wildlife Trafficking Action Plan in 2016 to address the root causes and identify measures to combat trafficking more effectively while supporting global efforts. These include funding and diplomacy, along with increasing the capacity of specialized cybercrime units and amending national legislation for wildlife crime to be recognized as a serious crime.
MEPs should ensure that the commitments of the EU Wildlife Trafficking Action Plan remain after 2020 and that the Member States adopt national Wildlife Trafficking Action Plans.
Africa’s elephants are in crisis and their numbers have dramatically declined, mostly due to poaching for their ivory.Elephant poaching and ivory trafficking will not stop as long as ivory remains legally on sale in many EU countries in markets, auctions, antique shops and on the internet. There is evidence that illegal, new ivory is being sold as antique, which is legal and leads to “ivory laundering” and permit forgery.
EU countries are also used as transit countries to smuggle illegal ivory from elephants poached in Africa to Asia. The Commission’s guidance published in May 2017 recommending a suspension in the (re-) export of raw ivory (tusks) was welcome, but insufficient to deal with internal and external trade in worked ivory. The EU as a whole should show leadership by closing down domestic ivory trade as well as banning all exports.
MEPs should encourage the European Commission to adopt stronger measures to forbid all external and intra-EU commercial trade in ivory.
Every year, EU enforcement authorities seize thousands of shipments including millions of protected wildlife specimens. The picture gets even gloomier when looking at the internet, which is largely unregulated, anonymous, and virtually unlimited in reach, and has become the world’s biggest marketplace, offering endless opportunities for criminal activities.
To combat the threat posed by online wildlife traffickers, it is critical that public and private sectors unite to improve coordination and communication between governments, inter-governmental organizations, enforcement agencies, private companies, non-governmental organizations, and academics. The Global Wildlife Cybercrime Action Plan brings together critical actors in the fight against online wildlife traffickers: its implementation is critical to defeating such a criminal network.
MEPs should ensure the implementation of the Global Wildlife Cybercrime Action Plan in Europe, with a focus on the allocation of sufficient enforcement resources to detect and prosecute wildlife cybercriminals.
Wildlife trafficking is not only pushing many species to the brink of extinction, but it also compromises the welfare of animals often trafficked in inhumane conditions to satisfy the demand for live animals. Enforcement authorities face a number of challenges when live animals are confiscated from illegal trade.
The EU and the Member States should ensure tools are in place for safeguarding the welfare of confiscated animals through specialized training on humane handling and support of facilities for temporary, and eventually long-term, care of animals if they are unable to be returned to the wild.
MEPs should encourage the Member States to strengthen law enforcement capacities, safeguard the welfare of confiscated animals, and both fund and adopt repatriation protocols to, wherever possible, return animals to their natural habitats.
Impact of Shipping
Cetaceans – whales, dolphins, and porpoises – face more diverse and complex conservation and welfare threats today than ever before. Whether fatal or reducing the animals’ ability to survive or reproduce, threats such as collisions with ships (known as ‘ship strikes’), and underwater noise (man-made ocean noise) must be addressed urgently.
Tragically, whales that are not killed immediately post-collision can suffer from terrible injuries and may have a slow, painful death. Fortunately, solutions exist such as re-routing shipping lanes and adopting speed reduction initiatives resulting in decreased levels of underwater noise, the risk of ship strike and greenhouse gas emissions, benefiting cetaceans and the environment as a whole.
MEPs should encourage the EU to address the environmental impact of shipping, such as ship strikes, greenhouse gas emissions, and underwater noise, by calling for a reduction in ships’ speed and re-routing away from critical habitats.
The EU and the Member States have a series of obligations arising from international laws and agreements to protect marine mammals. The EU has taken some actions to address bycatch (the unintentional catch of non-targeted marine species) but it remains the main threat to cetaceans in EU waters, with several thousand marine mammals affected every year.
Efforts to reinforce and harmonize cetacean bycatch solutions are urgently needed including to ensure adequate bycatch monitoring and fisheries data.
MEPs should ensure that reducing marine mammal bycatch becomes a main objective when deciding on new fisheries management methods and that legislation is properly developed and implemented.
As a new MEP, we also encourage you to join the cross-party interest group MEPs for Wildlife in the European Parliament, campaigning for the EU to step up the fight against wildlife crime.
What Can You Do As A (Future) MEP?
Environmental, conservation and animal welfare issues are crucial if we want to contribute to a better world for future generations.
As an MEP, you will have a responsibility to act, both in supporting the progress made and in addressing the areas for improvement.
We encourage you to sign this pledge now to show your commitment.