As one of the last countries in Europe, Belgium still allows pets, such as rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, poultry and exotic birds to be sold on the market. Therefore, Faunawatch Specialists have conducted research into the welfare of animals at the Antwerp Bird Market (Vogelenmarkt) based on the 5 freedoms, on which the European Union law for improving animal welfare is based. These 5 freedoms are as follows:
- Animals are free from hunger and thirst. They have easy access to freshwater and adequate ration.
- Animals are free from physical and physiological discomfort. They have a suitable living environment including shelter and a comfortable resting place.
- Animals are free from pain, injury and illness. There are prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Animals are free from fear and stress. There is care for conditions and treatments that prevent mental suffering.
- Animals are free to show normal behaviour. They have sufficient space, good facilities and the company of peers.
Members of the Faunawatch team have observed animals at the Antwerp Bird Market showing signs of anxiety and stress, among other things. Social and physical stress suppresses the immune system in humans and animals, with negative consequences for performance, behaviour and the mental state, which seriously affects the general well-being.
Animals are regularly kept in a small cage with many other species. This ensures competition for feed and water. Especially with small birds with a high metabolism, this can quickly be fatal. This is contrary to the first freedom.
The animals have physical discomfort in the context of limited freedom of movement. For example, birds cannot spread their wings and fly. The social housing of solitary species also causes aggression, fear and stress. This is contrary to the second freedom.
In many cases, there is an increased risk of disease transmission by bringing animals together from different sources. In birds, but also in rabbits and rodents, there can also be a risk to public health, especially when parrot diseases (zoonosis) are considered. Various cases are known. Animals that end up at the Antwerp Bird Market are not required to be checked for infectious diseases such as fungal infections, ectoparasites, coccidiosis and psittacosis in birds, of which several outbreaks have been reported at such meetings, which also pose a human health problem. This is contrary to third freedom.
Animals are exposed to fear and stress, both during transport to the market and in the market itself, due to external stressors such as bad weather conditions, noise, inadequate housing and living environment. This is contrary to the fourth freedom.
There is also a limitation of natural behaviour due to unsuitable housing. In particular, the absence of a shelter is a major problem at the Antwerp Bird Market, since it involves a lot of stress and anxiety. This is contrary to the fifth freedom.
The Faunawatch study, therefore, shows that the welfare of the animals at the Antwerp Bird Market does not comply with the 5 freedoms, and is therefore contrary to European Animal Welfare Regulations. Urgent action is therefore needed to improve the welfare of these animals.
The above is a brief summary of all findings. Further information can be provided.
European animal welfare legislation is spread over a number of regulations and directives (including Regulation No 1771/94, No 1/2005, No 1099/2009, No 576/2013; Directives No 1999/74 / EC, No (2010/63 / EU) and falls within the competence of the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. The animal welfare law of 1986 forms the legal framework.