The animal welfare package was preceded by an online consultation on the subject, which was completed by more than 250,000 people. Péter Ovádi, Ministerial Commissioner for the Renewal and Implementation of the National Animal Welfare Program, in response to questions from the Index through the Ministry of Agriculture, explained that the Animal Welfare Act needed to be tightened because
In terms of Europe, the domestic animal welfare legal environment is strict, but at the online animal protection dialogue launched in February, more than 262,000 people felt that further tightening was needed.
The presentation was preceded by many months of joint work involving the National Animal Welfare Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Food Chain Safety Office (Nébih), the Ministry of Justice, the police, and professional and non-governmental organizations.
What would change?
With regard to animal torture, the proposal creates the possibility of stricter criminal action and rules for dealing with the situation of the animal, the ministry summed up in its reply to our newspaper, highlighting some points from the package.
- Anyone who commits animal torture during the period of the ban is punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. If you destroy several animals by a particular recidivism or by the release of a poison, you can be punished for five years, just as the preparation for the release of a poison involves legal action.
- The proposal would penalize one to five years’ imprisonment for anyone who commits animal torture for more than ten pet animals for breeding purposes by failing to take care of a good farmer.
- The current practice in criminal proceedings for disqualification from keeping animals is that since the criminal judge cannot impose it, the prosecutor can initiate it in a separate civil lawsuit. The essence of the new proposal is that if the criminal court notifies the animal welfare authority that the keeper has been convicted of a criminal offense of torture or illicit offense, the animal welfare authority will carry out an official inspection on the basis of the court’s notification. According to the submitted submission, whoever takes part in an animal fight participate, will be punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment for a misdemeanor.
- The ban on keeping animals is entered in the Register of Administrative Sanctions, which can be consulted by the animal welfare authority. According to the proposal, the confiscation of an animal in a criminal case should be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act. With regard to seizures, the purpose of the amendment would be to keep animals seized during criminal proceedings in the most unfavorable conditions of detention. Under the proposal, not only the organizers of the animal fight could be punished, but also those involved in the animal fight.
The opposition supports it, but wants more
Opposition parties have voted to vote in favor of the proposals, but have tabled a package of amendments, including the following points:
- Establishment of a National Animal Welfare Fund: this would be a separate state fund aimed at budget support for non-governmental organizations and state-run institutions performing animal welfare tasks, as well as other animal welfare programs. At least HUF 15 billion would be allocated from the central budget for this purpose, for example by creating a national network of sites.
- Operation of the Animal Welfare Ombudsman: would monitor the performance of animal welfare duties and regularly inform the Parliament, the relevant institutions, organizations and the public. It could also initiate criminal proceedings and amend legislation, oversee the operation of the Animal Welfare Fund, and make proposals for programs to be supported. The Ombudsman for Animal Welfare would be nominated jointly by the leaders of the parliamentary groups and elected by a majority of the deputies for a term of five years.
- According to their proposal, the police would perform tasks related to effective animal protection and monitoring the implementation of the ban on keeping animals through animal protection guards.
- The requirements for appropriate animal behavior and responsible animal husbandry would be part of the National Core Curriculum and integrated into school curricula.
- The protection of animals would be enshrined in the constitution.
- They would ban chemicals that are dangerous to bees.
- I would banish traps from animals that endanger life or cause permanent damage to animals.
- Propagators would be prohibited from advertising on commercial sites.
- The inclusion of wild animals in circuses would be banned.
Opposition parties are in favor of tightening animal welfare laws, but see the package as overdue, and while acknowledging that it regulates important areas, it would be expanded and tightened at some points. However, their package of amendments did not pass the vote in the Committee on Judicial Affairs.
We were also curious whether Péter Ovádi would accept opposition proposals. We received the following answer:
I would also like to thank the opposition very much for caring about the subject and for taking the opportunity of the amendment, but I would like to point out that most of the proposal they have submitted contained points that we are already dealing with. Overall, the submission is ill-considered and unprofessional, with a lot of unfeasible ideas. It cannot be stressed enough that our presentation was preceded by long months of joint work involving members of the National Animal Welfare Council, professional and non-governmental organizations, the police, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Justice. Thank you very much for your helpful work! Such and similar joint work is still needed in order to make well-considered, comprehensive proposals. Some of the opposition’s proposals have already been implemented, while others are being developed.
The Minister mentioned several running projects:
- “The backbone of animal protection is provided by non-governmental organizations”, 67 organizations with a budget of HUF 141 million.
- With the help of Nébih, the trade in pets has become an activity subject to FELIR identification. Related to this area is the guide for determining the age of puppies prepared by Nébih.
- They supported Nébih’s free online training program, the Farmers ’Law Training, which the University of Veterinary Medicine helps with on-the-job training.
- Within the framework of the Hungarian Village Program, a tender promoting responsible animal husbandry was announced with a budget of five hundred million forints, which can be used for the neutering of dogs and cats, marking them with a transponder (microchip) and vaccination against rabies.
- Nébih’s fifty million forint neutering program is also underway.
- The National Animal Welfare Council has been established and further changes to the regulatory environment are planned.
They can vote in parliament on the pro-government package at the end of November.
(Cover image: Péter Ovádi on November 10, 2021. Photo: Lajos Soós / MTI)