Flanders proposes new animal welfare code, replacing 40-year-old regulations

Flemish minister of Animal Welfare Ben Weyts (N-VA) presented a new Animal Welfare Code at a petting zoo in Glabbeek on Monday. The new regulations bundle existing and new rules on animal welfare: for example, animal markets and home slaughter of certain animals are prohibited, and alternative punishments, such as mandatory training and supervision, can be imposed on people who go against these restrictions.

According to Weyts, Flanders is playing "a pioneering role" in animal welfare with these newly implemented codes of conduct. "This is a milestone for animal policy," he said. "We have completely rewritten the code. It means we can effectively bypass a lot of avoidable animal suffering."

The policy, which replaces the almost 40-year-old Animal Welfare Act, is based on the vision that every animal is a living being with feelings, specific needs and intrinsic value. Anyone negligent towards an animal can be punished.

New practices

Weyts also aims to put an end to certain practices, including the current chicken cages used in Flanders. They are set to be exchanged for free-range aviary systems to end the use of pens altogether by 2036.

Citizens are no longer allowed to slaughter sheep, goats or pigs at home, and animal markets must cease to take place with the exception of certain specialised fairs. Glue traps and any sexual act with animals are also banned in the new legislation.

In addition, every slaughterhouse must now install cameras, animals caught in the wild may not be kept, and there must be at least one designated animal welfare officer in every police zone. "This means we can help ensure that the new measures are sufficiently checked," says Weyts. "We have our own animal welfare inspectors and rely on cooperation with the local and federal police and the public prosecutor's office."

New rules have also been drawn up regarding dolphins. There will be a ban on dolphinariums, but until a better alternative is found, the Boudewijn Seapark in Bruges may continue to operate without exceeding the six-dolphin limit. The park is committed to building an outdoor pool for the animals by 2027 and will reevaluate every 10 years to determine if there is a better option for housing them.

The file was approved last Friday at the Council of Ministers and is now going to the Flemish Parliament.


#FlandersNewsService | Dolphinarium at the Boudewijn Seapark in Bruges ©BELGA PHOTO KURT DESPLENTER

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