As another weapon in the fight against animal diseases and antibiotic resistance, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, has welcomed the adoption of the Animal Health Law.

“The new law that comes into force on 20 April paves the way for a more efficient system to combat transmissible animal diseases,” said Andriukaitis. “These diseases, like foot and mouth disease or bluetongue, can have a devastating effect on our livestock production. Others, such as avian influenza, or certain newly emerging diseases, also have the potential to affect human health. The new law provides a single, comprehensive animal health framework to replace the series of complicated rules which have accumulated over the years.

“The adopted legislation also clarifies the division of responsibilities between animal keepers, traders, veterinarians, and national authorities and puts in place better notification and surveillance tools to fight animal diseases. This in turn should lead to fewer epidemics in EU countries, and help them reduce their social and economic effects thus ensuring the competitiveness and safety of EU livestock production.

“The new legislation also recognizes the importance of recent emerging issues, such as antimicrobial resistance, and sets out a better legal basis for monitoring animal pathogens which are resistant to antimicrobial agents. This will be supplemented by two further proposals - on veterinary medicines and on medicated feed - currently being negotiated in the European Parliament and Council.”

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Having been informally agreed by members of the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers in June 2015, the new measures were endorsed by Parliament earlier this month.

“The adoption of the Animal Health Law is a great victory,” said rapporteur, Jasenko Selimovic. “This law makes three things possible. First, it links animal health and welfare and connects it to human health. This direct link, together with emphasis on responsible use of antibiotics, will help us fight growing antimicrobial resistance. Second, it enables the authorities and producers to focus more closely on prevention and control of transmissible animal diseases. And third, it merges around 40 legal acts into one basic act.”

In brief, the new rules put more emphasis on disease prevention and clarify the responsibilities of farmers, traders and animal professionals including veterinarians.  It also empowers the EU Commission to take urgent measures to tackle emerging diseases that could have a “highly significant impact” on public health and agricultural production, following consultation with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and other stakeholders including farmers’ and veterinary organizations.  All disease control measures will have to take into account animal welfare, sparing animals avoidable pain, distress or suffering.