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Brussels, 11 June 2010
Questions and Answers on the EU Veterinary Week and traceability
What is the EU Veterinary Week (EVW)?
The concept of an EU Veterinary Week (EVW) –based on an initiative of the European Parliament– was developed to promote the work of EU veterinarians and to explain the importance of animal health within the context of the EU's Animal Health Strategy (AHS)1 , and in particular its two underlying principles of partnership and communication.
The overall aim of the EVW is to increase the public's interest and awareness in EU animal-health and food-safety matters.
The EU Veterinary Week was organised for the first time in 2008 by the Commission and the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe. The main theme of the EVW 2008 was biosecurity, which was in line with the AHS core principle that "prevention is better than cure."
In light of the positive feedback received from Member States, veterinarians, stakeholders and the general public, it was felt that it would be beneficial to have an EU Veterinary Week on a yearly basis.
What is the main objective of EVW 2010?
This year's EVW will take place from June 14 to June 20. Its overall aim is to increase the public's interest in EU animal health and food safety matters. A more specific goal for the EVW 2010 is to promote the benefits of animal identification and traceability.
What will happen during the EVW 2010?
The week will be launched in Brussels by a two-day conference in the Charlemagne building. One of the main purposes of the conference is to outline the close link between identification and traceability for veterinary purposes and the numerous additional benefits along the food chain – from farm management to product quality.
In addition, events will take place in several Veterinary Faculties throughout the EU during the EVW 2010. The aim of these events is to encourage discussions between veterinary and agricultural students and to encourage better cooperation between professionals in the two fields.
What is traceability?
Traceability is the ability to follow animals or food products throughout their lifecycle – from the moment they are born or produced till the moment they end up in our plate: from farm to fork.
Why is traceability important?
Traceability helps ensure the highest possible levels of food safety and hygiene by following food at every stage of the production process. In other words, it limits considerably the risks of the EU having to cope again with serious animal health diseases, such as the mad-cow disease that crippled the beef industry and seriously damaged consumer confidence in the '90s.
What prompted the Commission to come up with traceability rules?
The EU is a Common market of 27 Member States where animals and food products move freely without trade barriers and border inspections. The need for traceability rules became evident in the 1990's after the catastrophic results of the mad-cow crisis (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy). Other animal health diseases, such as the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001 that spread through uncontrolled movements of sheep causing huge economic losses, contributed further to the formulation of the EU's traceability rules.
How do we achieve traceability of animals?
Animal traceability is based on registration of holdings, identification of animals (e.g. with plastic ear tags or electronic tags) and the recording of movements in databases. Having these systems in place is the equivalent of having an insurance policy, which will take care of an unpleasant sudden development in our lives. A set of rules has been developed since the 1990's covering the main farm animal species (Regulation 1760/2000 for cattle, Regulation 21/2004 for sheep and goats, Regulation 504/2008 for horses, Directive 2008/71 for pigs)
Does tagging (electronic or other) cause any pain or stress to the animals?
There is a long tradition to identify animals and technical progress during the last years has led to welfare-friendly tagging systems. In particular, electronically readable tags can now be very small and be attached to the animals in a way that minimises any suffering.
Isn't the cost of applying the traceability rules a burden for the farmer?
Traceability requires animal tagging and record keeping. This cannot be achieved without costs. However, EU traceability systems are designed in a way that benefits, other than disease control and food safety, can be provided. In particular, the tagging systems for cattle, sheep and goats can contribute to cost efficient farm management. As mentioned earlier, traceability can be compared to an insurance policy.
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The EU Animal Health Strategy provides the framework for animal health and welfare measures 2007-2013. It is based on the results of an extensive evaluation and a large stakeholders consultation. http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/diseases/strategy/index_en.htm