The traditional autumn livestock slaughter in the Balkans raises new concerns over compliance with EU regulations on animal protection.
By Mladen Dragojlovic for Southeast European Times in Banja Luka -- 30/11/12
Animal protection laws are lacking in BiH, experts say. [AFP]
Compliance with EU regulation on animal protection will force farmers away from age-old traditions of animal slaughter in the Balkans.
According to the union's regulation, at the time of slaughter the animal must be spared of unnecessary pain, distress and suffering; animals must be stunned by one of the allowed methods in order to minimise their pain, and a professional veterinarian must be hired to conduct the slaughter.
"When Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) incorporates a law like that, it will be the end of a 100-year tradition. But, I think that farmers will continue with their habits, regardless of regulation," Vladimir Usorac, president of the farmers' association of Republika Srpska (RS), told SETimes.
Bojan Kecman, spokesman for the RS Ministry of Agriculture, thinks that the BiH law on protection and welfare of animals is, for the most part, in line with EU regulations, but still must be fully implemented.
Kecman said that BiH authorities understand the tradition and farmers' needs, but the situation will have to change as BiH comes closer to EU ascension.
"The EU is especially sensitive towards animal protection issue. Veterinarian inspection will have to tighten its controls, and after joining the EU, BiH will fully implement the laws, including fining the farmers who do not comply. EU standards are high and fines are not small," Kecman told SETimes.
Negotiating traditions is not the only thing that will change under the regulation. Pig slaughter for private consumption is legal; however, currently, some farmers sell part of the meat.
Rade Z., a farmer from the Banja Luka area who would not give his last name, told SETimes he is aware that the sale of meat from private slaughter is illegal, but said he will risk a fine and still sell his meats at the market.
"I'm an unemployed engineer and have to find a way to make money. Luckily, I have a small farm near Banja Luka where I slaughter pigs in autumn. Some meat I keep for the winter and some I sell at the market. If I call a veterinarian to kill an animal, I must pay him, and that is an expense I can't afford. I only regularly pay for the inspection of meats for Trichinella parasite before I take the products to the market," he said.
When BiH enters the EU, he expects the situation will improve for the farmers, since they will have access to a wider market, but worries that the EU will demand ending of traditional animal slaughter.
Sejla Camo, member of the Sarajevo citizen association, Av Mau, caring for the protection of animals in BiH, thinks that after the country joins the EU things will not change immediately, and that farmers will try to circumvent the regulations.
"[P]utting to practice the EU regulation [on animal protection] will at first go without fines. When it comes to animal rights, BiH and its entities have passed the laws, but [they] are not respected," Camo told SETimes.
She added that animal rights groups in BiH need to put pressure on the government to start implementing the law. Otherwise, Cano said, farmers will find ways to avoid the regulations, even after BiH enters the EU.
According to the Banja Luka-based Animal Rights and Protection Society, the BiH animal protection laws, which were passed several years ago, only minimally cover animal protection.