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Biological safety use of animals by humans

Scientific developments and intensification of practices were source of important changes in the use of animals, in agriculture and food production, as well as in research and experimentation. The Conventions on the protection of animals elaborated at the Council of Europe were the first international legal instruments laying down ethical principles for the transport, the farming, the slaughtering of animals as well as for their use for experimental purposes and as pet. They have been used as a basis for and continue to influence all the relevant legislation in Europe. Animal welfare is an issue of increasing importance in Europe. The work of the Council of Europe reflects this evolution.

The Council of Europe's work on animal protection was started in the 1960s. There are two reasons for this. First of all, respect for animals counts among the ideals and principles which are the common heritage of its member States as one of the obligations upon which human dignity is based. Secondly, in all member States animal protection has become a topical subject on which governments have agreed to the necessity of concerted action. Five Conventions have been drawn up - on animals during international transport (ETS 65, 1968); animals kept for farming purposes (ETS 87, 1976); animals for slaughter (ETS 102, 1979); vertebrate animals used for experimental and other scientific purposes (ETS 123, 1986); and pet animals (ETS 125, 1987). All of these conventions are based on the principle that “for his own well-being, man may, and sometimes must, make use of animals, but that he has a moral obligation to ensure, within reasonable limits, that the animal’s health and welfare is in each case not unnecessarily put at risk.”

The Conventions addressing the conditions for the use of animals, elaborated at the Council of Europe, were the first international legal instruments laying down ethical principles in this field. These Conventions were a reference in the European countries for the elaboration of relevant national legislations, and were used as a basis for relevant EU legislation.

Since 1988, work carried out at the Council of Europe, has focused on the monitoring of the implementation of these different Conventions. The main concern is now to improve and harmonise, at international level, the conditions for the use of animals in the different fields concerned (in particular, agriculture and scientific research), taking into account new scientific evidence and practical experience acquired, by:
- facilitating the implementation of the Conventions,
- adapting existing legal instruments to scientific and technical developments, such as biotechnology, and
- elaborating relevant legal instruments based on the principles of these Conventions.

The political and technical value of the legal instruments working method adopted in the framework of these activities is based on a close collaboration with non-governmental organisations representing the different sectors concerned (veterinarians, animal protection associations, animal behaviour specialists, farmers, scientists, etc.). Furthermore, for these activities, a very close collaboration has developed with the European Union.