Veterinary authorities to make more surprise farm inspections

The veterinary office emphasised that early detection of farms at a high risk for animal cruelty would remain the top priority. Keystone

The Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office announced Tuesday that it is developing, in collaboration with cantonal authorities, a new system of controls aimed at detecting and handling animal cruelty cases more rapidly and efficiently.

This content was published on April 3, 2018 - 19:34

The new requirements should be implemented in early 2020, the veterinary office said in a press release. The goal is to detect cases of animal cruelty on Swiss farms more quickly, while wasting fewer resources on operations that show no signs of misconduct.

In Switzerland, all farms must be subject to a basic inspection at least once every four years. According to the veterinary office, 12,075, or about 25% of farms were inspected in 2017, of which nearly one-fifth reported “shortcomings” in terms of animal treatment.

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Currently, Swiss law stipulates that 10% of such basic inspections be carried out without advance notice – a requirement that was surpassed last year, with 28% of visits being unannounced. Nevertheless, seven cantons failed to fulfil the legal requirements these inspections.

As part of the new system of controls, the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office plans to increase the unannounced inspection requirement to 40%, while at the same time reducing the overall number of visits to free up resources for identifying and following up on high-risk cases.  

‘A step in the right direction’

The increase in the proportion of unannounced visits has long been a request of animal protection organisations, such as Swiss Animal Protection.

However, a spokesperson for the group, Hansueli Huber, said that while the new plan is a step in the right direction, it’s “unacceptable” that regulations for unannounced inspections are still disregarded by one in five cantons. 

He added that it’s also problematic that small or hobby farmers are not included in such inspection requirements, leaving up to half a million horses, rabbits and sheep un-monitored.

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