It is up to Member States to select the ‘appropriate’ measures to eradicate or control Invasive Alien Species.
Very often, this results in methods being used that cause pain and suffering.
IAS are species which threaten or have a negative impact on biodiversity and the ecosystem of the host country. They come into Europe for a number of reasons: to be kept as pets, farmed for fur, or used for hunting or fishing.
When animals are introduced into a new environment, they may not be faced with limiting factors found in their native habitats, such as predators or food scarcity. Able to spread and multiply, they are at risk of becoming invasive in their new habitat, creating an imbalance with the endemic species, transmitting diseases to them or competing for resources.
Once invasive alien species have been introduced to a new environment, controlling their spread and limiting their impact on the environment and native species may become necessary. In doing so, animal welfare must be at the forefront. An invasive animal still has the same capacity to experience pain, stress and suffering as a non-invasive animal and their welfare must be considered within management decisions.
As Member States are allowed to select the ‘appropriate’ measures to eradicate, control or contain invasive alien species, this can result in methods being used that cause pain, suffering and distress to target and non-target animals alike. Several European countries, for example, use drown traps to control muskrat populations - but drowning can take more than three minutes, and the inhalation of water is an extremely stressful experience.
While lethal methods may lead to additional negative effects, such as hunted animals suffering when they don’t die immediately or offspring being left alone to starve, non-lethal methods may cause harm too. Displacing moles may, for example, mean they are not able to build the tunnel system they need for survival quick enough, or that they come into conflict with other moles if they are released in their territory.
Few efforts have been made so far to develop effective non-lethal methods, although research has been done into promising ideas such as the fertility control of grey squirrels in the UK, which lured grey squirrels using chocolate spread to ingest an oral contraceptive.
However, even these methods require thorough analysis of the negative effects of administering them, as there may be short- or long-term impact on animal welfare. One study by researchers in Australia showed that short-term effects may include physical side effects of an injection or implant, while long-term effects can be loss of fitness or altered behaviour.
Animals that have become invasive alien species in Europe include the red-eared slider turtle and the American grey squirrel, which entered as exotic pets.
The latter’s threat to the native red squirrel in the UK since its introduction in the 19th century is well documented; 2014’s estimated population of 2,520,000 grey squirrels heavily outweighed the 10,000-15,000 red squirrels thought to be left.
Ring-neck parakeets have also been introduced via the pet trade.
They are threatening native animal species such as bats in Spain and local bird species in south-east England, where they are also a threat to crop growth.
THE COST TO THE EU OF IAS IS
EUROS PER YEAR
BELIEVE THAT ANIMAL WELFARE RELATES TO A 'DUTY TO RESPECT ALL ANIMALS'
THERE ARE ALMOST
TIMES MORE GREY SQUIRRELS THAN RED SQUIRRELS IN THE UK
Eurogroup for Animals considers that the request on animal welfare in the IAS Regulation is not being implemented, and that the lack of a stronger provision to protect the welfare of IAS leads to the unnecessary suffering of animals.
When Member States are allowed to decide which method to use for IAS management procedures without scrutiny, these can cause pain, suffering and distress to target and non-target animals.
We advocate for the European Commission to develop and promote effective non-lethal methods of managing IAS, as well as not to allow the use of inhumane methods of killing, among the Member States. We will also promote Positive Lists as the best system to prevent the introduction of new invasive species.
In addition, we emphasise that species that are on the Union List should not be exceptionally authorised for trade, transport or breeding for the purpose of perpetuating the fur farming industry, not only because of our total opposition to that industry, but also because this is a pathway of introduction for IAS into Europe.