New Animal Welfare Act passed
This article provides a summary of the most important changes of the new Animal Welfare Act, compared to the previous Animal Protection Act. The Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance has suggested several of the provisions, and prioritised them whilst working on the new Act.
The intrinsic value of animals: The new Act states that animals have an intrinsic value, irrespective of their utility value.
The right to alert: Caregivers, psychologists, doctors and other health personnel will have the right to alert the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (Mattilsynet) of any animal abuse which they become aware of through their professional activities.
16-year age limit: When a child keeps a pet, the formal responsibilities are placed onto the parents. Animals cannot be sold or given to children below this age restriction, and pet shops must ask to see proof of age when in doubt.
Anaesthetic and analgesic during surgery: The new Act demands both anaesthetics and analgesics to be used when a surgical procedure may cause pain for an animal.
Prohibition of non-medically sanctioned amputations: A general ban on surgery and amputations that are performed for other purposes than a concern for the health of the animal. Dehorning and castration are still legal.
Protection of the life of an animal: A ban on killing animals purely for entertainment purposes is implemented.
Protection for further laboratory animals: All animals that are used for research, including those killed for organ harvesting, will be defined as “laboratory animals”. They are thus protected by the Regulation on Animal Experimentation, and must be controlled by the authorities.
Prohibition of sexual abuse: The use of animals for sexual acts is prohibited.
Prohibition of abandonment of animals in a helpless condition: Leaving animals without the proper care is prohibited.
Protection of the freedom of an animal: The new Act states that animals may only be kept in captivity if they can adapt to the method of keeping in a satisfactory way with regard to animal welfare. This could make it more difficult to obtain permission for breeding of wild animals or for displaying animals in zoos and circuses.
Demands for animal care: The Act states that animals must be kept in an environment that is consistent with good welfare. The environment must fulfil both the species-specific needs and the individual needs of the animals.
Releasing animals in the wild: It is stated that animals may only be released into nature if the animal has a good possibility to adapt to and survive in its new environment. This enables for example the release of wild birds that have been rehabilitated, should their health allow for it.
Decisions regarding bans on keeping animals: Should a person fail to comply with substantial orders, or seriously or repeatedly violate decisions made under the Act, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority will be allowed to place a ban on animal keeping and the partaking in certain animal activities. Such activities include slaughter, fishing and performing animal experiments. Up until this point, bans on animal keeping could only be issued in court, and this alteration will make it easier to put an end to animal cruelty.
Other provisions: The new Act enables the creation of databases, e.g. of those that are banned from keeping animals. The Act also enables the implementation of bans on the import and distribution of animal products. This could for example permit a ban on the import of down from live-plucked birds, goose liver pâté, fur and other products which have a particularity cruel method of production.
Weakening of the legal protection of animals
In the previous Animal Protection Act, any attempts of animal abuse were punishable by law. This also included inadvertent animal abuse. However, the new Act permits attempts of animal abuse, meaning that a person who attempts to torment an animal, but fails, cannot be punished for this.
A person may only be punished for inadvertent animal abuse in severe cases. ‘Severe inadvertent animal abuse’ is a very strict judicial norm. In reality, this means that only intentional animal abuse and the most severe cases of inadvertent animal abuse can lead to a conviction.
The current Animal Protection Act states that the instinct and natural needs of animals are to be taken into consideration. In the hearing draft for the new Act, this statement was modernised: “Extensive consideration must be given to the physical and mental needs of animals, based on their individuality and their ability to experience positive and negative experiences.” This sentence was removed after the hearing by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, despite wide support from the consultative bodies.
The Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance encouraged the Parliament to re-incorporate the sentence, however, no political parties accepted to do so.
- This is very disappointing. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food claims that Norway should be a leading country in terms of animal welfare, however this weakness is destructive to that image, states Live Kleveland, legal adviser in the Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance.
The road towards the new Animal Welfare Act
The Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance initiated the new Act in 2001. In 2003, we received the support of the Norwegian Parliament, and in 2004, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority began work on the new Act. Legal adviser Live Kleveland in the Norwegian Animal Protection Alliance is pleased that the new Act is finally approved.
- We have been working towards this for nearly eight years, and it is our opinion that the new Act in certain areas will improve the legal protection of animals. While there is room for improvement, this is a step in the right direction, she says.
The Norwegian animal Protection Alliance is still disappointed that the penalty provisions have been altered to the detriment of the animals.
- This will make it more difficult to bring animal welfare issues to court in the future, says Kleveland.
It is also very disappointing that the Act does not state that consideration must be paid to the mental and physical needs of the animals.
- This is a clear weakening of the Act compared to the current legislation, she adds.