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EU Animal Health Regulations – Channel Racing

Further to my update of 19th July, I am now in a position to provide members with a detailed update in relation to the proposed amendments to the EU Regulation 2020/692.

The amendments have now been adopted by the EU Commission but are subject to scrutiny by the EU Parliament/Council. My understanding is that if there are no objections from the Parliament/Council that the revised regulations will appear in the official journal of the EU and are therefore agreed. Timescales seem to suggest that this could happen by the end of September 2021, but this is not guaranteed.

At this point it will be helpful to summarise the original requirements of EU regulation 2020/692 that have made racing from the Continent for organisations impossible.

  1. A test at an approved laboratory for Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza would have to be taken by each loft/establishment 7-14 days in advance of each race.
  2. Each Loft/Establishment would be required to obtain a Health Certificate signed by an approved Veterinary officer prior to each race.
  3. Pigeons would have to be quarantined within the lofts for a set period, meaning no mixing with pigeons from other lofts (so no races, group training etc.)
  4. The Pigeons would then be required to be quarantined at the country of destination
  5. Each loft/Establishment has to be registered with the competent authority. In the UK this is DEFRA/APHA

What are the Adopted amendments?

The adopted amendments have now been published and can be obtained at this link

What I consider to be the relevant points have been extracted, copied and pasted in italics below;

Extracts the amending Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/692 supplementing Regulation (EU) 2016/429 of the European Parliament and the Council as regards rules for entry into the Union, and the movement and handling after entry of consignments of certain animals, germinal products and products of animal origin

(14) Racing pigeons fall within the definition of ‘captive birds’ laid down in Article 4, point (10), of Regulation (EU) 2016/429. Therefore, the specific animal health requirements for captive birds laid down in Part II, Title 3, Chapter 2, of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/692 apply also to those animals. However, those requirements limit the possibility for the entry into the Union of racing pigeons from a third country or territory or zone thereof with the intention that they will fly back to that third country or territory or zone. Moreover, racing pigeons introduced into the Union with the intention to fly back to the third country or territory of origin or zone thereof do not pose the same animal health risk as other captive birds. Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/692 should therefore be amended to provide for a derogation from the specific animal health requirements for captive birds for the entry into the Union of racing pigeons from a third country or territory or zone thereof where they are normally kept, with the intention to be immediately released with the expectation that they will fly back to that third country or territory or zone thereof.

‘Article 62 Derogations from the animal health requirements for the entry into the Union of captive birds

  1. By way of derogation from the requirements laid down in Article 11 and Articles 54 to 58, consignments of racing pigeons which enter the Union from a third country or territory or zone thereof where they are normally kept, with the intention to be immediately released with the expectation that they will fly back to that third country or territory or zone thereof and which do not comply with those requirements, shall be permitted to enter the Union if they comply with the following requirements:

(a) the Member State of destination has determined that the racing pigeons may enter into its territory from that third country or territory or zone thereof in accordance with Article 230(2) of Regulation (EU) 2016/429;

(b) they come from a registered establishment, within a 10 km radius of which, including, where appropriate, the territory of any neighbouring country, there has been no outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza EN 12 EN or infection with Newcastle disease virus for a period of at least the preceding 30 days prior to the date of loading for dispatch to the Union;

(c) they have not been vaccinated against highly pathogenic avian influenza;

(d) they have been vaccinated against infection with Newcastle disease virus and the competent authority of the third country or territory of origin has provided guarantees that the vaccines used comply with the general and specific criteria for vaccines against infection with Newcastle disease virus set out in point 1 of Annex XV;

(d) they come from an establishment where vaccination against infection with Newcastle disease virus is carried out.

  1. By way of derogation from the requirements laid down in Articles 59, 60 and 61, the competent authority of the Member State of entry into the Union may authorise the entry into the Union of racing pigeons which will not be transported directly to a quarantine establishment approved in accordance with Article 14 of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/2035 if they are: (a) racing pigeons

which have entered into the Union from a third country or territory or zone thereof where they are normally kept in accordance with paragraph 2; (b) released immediately, under the control of the competent authority, with the expectation that they will fly back to the third country or territory of origin or zone thereof.’

What does this mean?

The content of the adopted regulation has been discussed at a meeting with myself and DEFRA officials. DEFRA have a number of actions points, to obtain clarity from the EU in relation to these requirements; once clarity has been obtained we will publish an update. Please note that this could take a number of weeks or months but we hope to be in a position to provide a clear position by the end of this calendar year.

In summary the adopted amendments remove the requirement for

  1. Laboratory tests
  2. Quarantine – both in the UK prior to racing and within the EU
  3. The Health certificate

These following requirements will remain;

  1. The country of destination allows the entry of racing pigeons in accordance with article 230 of regulation 2016/429.
  2. The loft/establishment/premises has to be registered with the UK competent authority.
  3. The Pigeons will be required to be vaccinated against Paramyxo/Newcastle Disease.
  4. The liberation of the pigeons has to be controlled by the competent authority in the country of destination.   

We are seeking clarification in relation to the requirements of article 230 (point 1 above). However, we must consider that racing pigeons and captive birds are currently allowed entry in EU countries from the UK; it is the existing requirements of such permission, which has stopped continental racing in 2021. 

With regards to the liberations; the liberation of pigeons on French territory is already written into French law and is controlled by the FCF who provide permits through the RPRA for each liberation. Therefore, DEFRA will be establishing whether this covers the requirement of control by the French Competent Authority.  DEFRA will also be approaching other EU countries such as Spain to establish their position/controls in this respect.   

The RPRA has already opened up discussions with DEFRA in relation to the process for registering premises and how this, while considering GDPR, could be facilitated through the RPRA membership database.

The process required to evidence vaccination is also being discussed in terms of establishing whether any changes to the current process are required.

Finally

There is still much to be clarified but clearly the fact that these amendments have been adopted by the commission and have therefore cleared the first hurdle, is very promising.

By the end of September we hope that the adopted amendments have been ‘approved’ by the EU Council/Parliament.

Then, by the end of the calendar year, we hope to be in a position to clearly communicate the processes required to enter the EU with pigeons, for the purpose of racing. Then start working with organisations to communicate these requirements and put in place whatever infrastructure is required.

Ian Evans
CEO

A printable copy of this article can be downloaded here.

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04/08/21: The BICC brought to our attention that a single loft has been able to successfully comply with current regulations and send their pigeons to the Perpignan International this coming weekend. This has been achieved at significant cost to the individual member concerned, reported to be in the region of £750. It is assumed these costs relate to the required health certificate.

Whilst it seems that it is possible for an individual to race across the channel, it has come at a significant cost to that individual member which would clearly be prohibitive to the majority of RPRA members. Putting aside the cost and taking into consideration the existing UK infrastructure of relevant authorities (approved veterinarians etc), it would be impossible to facilitate racing for organisations given the large numbers of pigeons and competitors.

The RPRA is committed to finding a sustainable, long term solution for all of our members and we will continue to work together to achieve a return to channel racing for all. Our previous communication outlined that there are steps being taken within the EU to amend the current regulations, although  these amendments are currently not approved. Based on this we are more than hopeful that a solution will be achieved in advance of the 2022 season.  

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19/07/21: Yesterday I received a draft copy of proposed amendments to the new EU Animal Health Law. You may recall at the start of the year my communication highlighted the possibility within the regulations for derogations (exemptions) under Article 62. The draft amendment does include proposed derogations that IF approved, would be a huge step towards achieving continental racing in 2022. 

I must stress that there is still a long way to go. The RPRA will continue to work with DEFRA, FCI and other European colleagues and friends to hopefully achieve the desired outcome. 

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06/07/21: I am conscious that it has been over 5 weeks since my last update. Therefore, I wanted to update members in terms of actions and strategy.

Long Term Objectives

It has been widely publicised that the new EU Animal Health Regulation (2020/692) makes it virtually impossible to facilitate racing from the continent. With this in mind our attention has to be focused on a long term solution that can only be achieved by an amendment to this regulation. Therefore, a petition has been drafted with a view to petitioning the EU commission to amend the relevant regulation/ rules of moving pigeons from the UK into the continent for the purpose of racing. 

I am aware of an EU petition circulating on social media that has received a great deal of support from UK pigeon fanciers and their families. However, this petition will not help our cause as it focuses on the movement of pigeons between members states and not Third Countries. Furthermore, it is my understanding that only EU citizens can petition the commission and that petitions can only be raised by organisations based within the EU. As a result, we have approached the FCI for their assistance. This petition will be circulated to the national racing pigeon bodies of EU member states, to publicise wide and far among their members and request their support. 

In addition I have met with representatives of the NFC and BICC who are keen to help. They are currently approaching EU based lobbying organisations to identify suitability and to establish cost.

Short Term Objectives

As previously publicised, the EU commission agreed to a transitional period before implementing the new regulation. However, during the transitional period member states can apply their own rules in relation to the movement of racing pigeons from Third Countries. The current rules being implemented by the French authorities are as onerous as those contained within the EU Regulation 2020/692. A supportive French senator will be raising a question, aimed at helping the short term movement into France, at the French Senate on 13th July. 

Despite the assistance of the FCI and numerous emails to other EU countries, we have been unable to establish the rules of moving pigeons into other EU countries during the transitional period.  

All Party Parliament Group (APPG) 

The Chair of the APPG will once again be writing to the DEFRA Minister, highlighting the issues and requesting assistance in negotiating a solution. This letter will be published in due course.

Ian Evans

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28/05/21: The situation regarding channel racing has not changed since our announcement on 21st May. We will continue to work with those bodies and individuals outlined in last week’s update.

As soon as we have any news, we will provide an update immediately.

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21/05/21: As previously published, the EU has agreed to extend the transitional period for the new Animal Health Regulations until October 2021. This news was taken as a positive step towards achieving channel racing, with the understanding that we would be able to move pigeons into the EU on the same basis as we have for decades.

However, during the transitional period, EU member states are permitted to apply their own national rules, and this is where we currently have an issue. The French position is that an Animal Health Certificate remains a requirement. The requirements of the Health Certificate include but are not limited to:

1. The loft being under the surveillance of an approved veterinarian, who would sign the Health Certificate, that in turn requires points 2 and 3 below.

2. The pigeons could not take part in any races for a period of 30 days prior to being moved into France.

3. Each loft would have to supply evidence of a negative test for Paramyxo and Newcastle Disease, carried out by an approved laboratory at least 7 days in advance of being transported.

What is being done?

Discussions are ongoing. The RPRA is working with the appropriate UK authorities, APPG, a supportive French Senator, the FCF and FCI to lobby the French authorities. These discussions are based on the low risk pigeons pose to the spread of the two diseases at the centre of the health certification requirements – Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza. The aim is to remove the requirements of the Health Certificate and proceed on the same basis as we have for decades.

As a contingency we are also exploring the rules associated with moving pigeons into Belgium, Holland and Germany. It may prove possible to move pigeons into these countries without the Health Certificate. If this proved positive we would at least provide an opportunity for cross channel racing from these countries.

Why hasn’t the RPRA previously explored the possibility of racing from other European countries?

Because until the EU applied the transitional period mentioned above, such actions would not have been possible.

We will provide the next update as soon as we have any information or by next Friday at the latest.

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14/05/21: Within our previous update we outlined the importance that the EU position was communicated to the relevant member states and the relevant customs authorities.  

The current position is that there is still not an agreed process to allow the smooth entry into France. We are working with Defra and a contact in France, who in turn is working with the French Customs in an attempt to reach a position where all sides are aware of the required paperwork and process to facilitate entry.

In the interest of the pigeons’ welfare, until this process has been agreed we would advise against any organisation trying to enter France with pigeons for the purpose of racing. There remains a real possibility that entry would be refused.  

We will provide an update as soon as the position is clarified.

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06/05/21: At a meeting with Defra today it was confirmed that the EU Commission has agreed to provide a transitional period for the movement of racing pigeons into the EU for the purpose of racing.

This transitional period will run until October 2021, after which time we will have to meet the requirements of the new Animal Health Requirements, unless derogations can be achieved.

From recent communications with French Border Control Posts it is obvious that this information has not yet cascaded down to the staff on the ground. Defra have a meeting next week where they hope to accelerate this information.

However, due to the levels of Avian Influenza on the continent at this point in time, the General Licence does not allow us to race from the continent. This position will be reviewed next week and we hope to have news within the week after next.

I am sure that everyone will receive this as positive news. The largest hurdle to channel racing now has a temporary solution. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff at Defra, who have worked to a position that means we have a temporary solution to the Animal Health Law.

More information will be published in due course. 

Ian Evans
RPRA CEO

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15/04/21: The following has been provided as an update by a representative of the Export Team at Defra: 

A meeting took place on Tuesday 13th April between Defra and the Commission. On the long list of agenda items was the impact of the New Animal Health regulations on channel racing. Defra have now followed this with another written request that focuses on the avenue to achieve derogations (Exemptions) outlined in Article 62 of the Delegated regulation 2020/692. 

Other actions

In addition, I wish to inform members that the RPRA President has written to the French Minister of EU and Foreign Affairs outlining our issues and requesting assistance. The Federation Colombophile Francaise (FCF) and Federation Colombophile Internationale (FCI) have also committed to write to the Minister and support our request for assistance.

The FCI and their European colleagues are also attempting to get this issue placed on the agenda at the Commission.

May I take this opportunity to thank everyone who is supporting these efforts in a positive manner, and also stress how important it is that this is done through a co-ordinated approach organised through the RPRA. 

Ian Evans
RPRA CEO

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Update 09/04/21: The following is an update in relation to the correspondence between the RPRA and the Directorate General Sante of the EU.  

The correspondence below will demonstrate that we are no closer to achieving a position that will facilitate channel racing but that we are doing everything we can to achieve this position.

We will continue to keep you updated.

CEO’s reply to DG Sante dated 8th April 2021

Dear Mr Van Goethem, Thank you for the latest reply. Your time and assistance in this matter is very much appreciated.

Please would you provide a little more of your time to answer the following questions.

I accept that the provisions of article 2016/429 require the movement into the union to be as stringent as the movement between member states. However, the current position is that the requirements of regulation 2020/692 and therefore movement into the union, are far more stringent for Racing Pigeons transported for the purpose of racing. The articles within the regulation make it impossible to move racing pigeons into France and other EU member states. What we are trying to achieve is parity in relation to the requirements associated with the movement of racing pigeons into the union and the movement between member states. i.e. parity between regulations 2020/688 and 2020/692. We are attempting to achieve this aim for the same reasons that the representatives from members states lobbied for amendments to regulation 2020/688 in relation to racing pigeons. Please note we are not asking for any amendments relating to the permanent import of racing pigeons from the UK but for the purpose of racing and therefore the temporary ‘import’ of pigeons that are released to fly back to the UK – a non-commercial process that has happened for one hundred years without any negative impact on health.

These amendments include:

1. Removing the requirement of the 21 day isolation period for pigeons being transported for the purpose of racing

2. Removing the requirement for a Health certificate, endorsed/signed by a veterinarian appointed by the competent authority and replacing this with an owners declaration.

Will regulation 2020/692 also be amended to reflect the requirement for racing pigeons contained within regulation 2020/688 and therefore be as stringent as those contained within regulation 688 ? If not could you explain why? What is the rational behind the difference in approach? 

I am aware that the current discussions in relation to derogation’s relate to article 61 and not article 62. However, Article 62 states that derogation’s can be achieved in relation to articles 3 to 10, 11 to 19 and 53 to 61; if the third country is specifically listed for the entry into the Union based a equivalent guarantees. This suggest that derogation relating to the health certification and housing requirements prior to movement can be achieved.

How are such derogation’s achieved ? Is this an application to the commission from the UK Government? Are these derogation’s something that member states can apply ?

Finally, thank you for confirming how the transition period will work. Given that regulation 2013/139 made racing pigeons exempt from such certification processes when transported for the purpose of racing; I am not aware of any existing certificates for this purpose. Therefore, how can we be expected to comply with the new requirements by using non-existent certificates ?           

I am assured that the UK competent authority has made an initial written request to the commission in respect of the new AHL but to date they have not received a reply. 

In the meantime I would be grateful if you could find the time to reply to my questions

Thank you 
Ian

 DG Sante reply to CEOs email previously published

Dear Mr Evans,

As regards your question on the approach of current and future rules, please note that according to the provisions of Regulation (EC) 2016/429 (Animal Health Law – AHL) the rules for entry into the Union should be as stringent as those for the movement between Member States. Therefore, since there are rules for the movement of racing pigeons between Member States, racing pigeons are also included in the scope of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/692 for the entry into the Union.

As regards the amendment of Regulation (EU) 2020/692, please note that the discussions in relation to racing pigeons relate to the provisions of Article 61, not Article 62. In that respect, we are considering the possibility for a derogation, under certain conditions, from the obligation that racing pigeons are kept in an approved quarantine establishment for 30 days. It will be, therefore, up to the competent authority of Member States to assess on a case by case if the specific conditions for allowing for such a derogation apply.

Finally, as regards your question on a transitional period, please note that AHL and Regulation (EU) 2020/692 will apply as of 21 April 2021. Therefore, as of that date racing pigeons should comply with the rules laid down therein.

The transitional period until October 2021 refers to the certificates that should accompany the animals for their entry into the Union. In particular, the draft implementing regulation laying down the certificates for terrestrial animals provides that during that period animal should be accompanied by the certificates applicable before 21 April 2021.

I understand that this issue is complex. I would, therefore, urge you to contact the competent authorities of the United Kingdom for any further information needed.

B. Van Goethem

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Update 30/03/21: Further to the CEO’s communication last week (below) in relation to channel racing and the Animal Health requirements, he has decided to publish details of the issues and the possible solutions. This includes extracts from communications with the EU Commission representatives of the Directorate General for Health (DG Sante), as well as a detailed overview of the relevant EU regulations.

As you will be aware, we were informed by DEFRA that pigeons transported from the UK to the EU for racing purposes were exempt from the animal health requirements. This – at the time – was accurate, as the relevant EU Regulation 2013/139 provided specific exemptions in this respect. However, this did not take into consideration the new Animal Health Laws/Regulations coming into force on 21st April 2021. These new regulations do not provide exemptions for racing pigeons transported for racing purposes.

The report below (click on the link) provides an overview of the issues relating to the new Animal Health laws, and the potential solutions to channel racing. 

EU Animal Health Laws – Report 30th March 2021

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Update 25/03/21: As you will be aware from my previous post (below), Defra had confirmed that racing pigeons transported into the EU from the UK for racing purposes, i.e. to be liberated in the EU to fly back to the UK, were exempt from the Animal Health Requirements. Following this confirmation we have been working with French Border Control to establish what paperwork was required. The outcome of this has been that there is a very different opinion to the ‘import’ of racing pigeons into the EU from the UK for racing purposes, in terms of the health documentation. 

The current position of the French border control would make the prospect of racing from France or any EU country virtually impossible.

There has been successful lobbying of the EU commission by the FCI and European racing organisations in terms of exemptions for racing in relation to the the new animal health laws. While it seems the commission has now excluded racing pigeons from such requirements, it has recently become apparent that this is only the case for transport within the EU, by EU members states.

What is being done?

I am in regular contact with French Border Control, FCI and FCF (French Pigeon Racing Federation) to try and reach a position whereby we can make channel racing achievable. I have also brought this issue to the attention of Defra, who are looking into the issues.   

While I am not an expert in the animal health requirements, I am of the opinion that article 62 of the Animal Health Requirements for Third Countries (countries outside of the EU), that allows such countries to apply for certain derogations (exemptions), is the avenue to take. However, the process for achieving these derogations is yet to be confirmed. The FCI and FCF are currently assisting in trying to establish the process with the Commission and the French Authorities. 

Please be assured that everything that can be done is being done.

Ian Evans
CEO

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Update 20/01/21: The impact of Brexit on channel racing has been a concern for pigeon fanciers all around the UK. The required health documentation and processes relating to the import and export of the avian species, published since Brexit, has increased these concerns.

The relevant EU regulation that covers the transportation of the avian species from third countries (countries from outside of the EU) into a European Union member state is 2013/139.

The following has been extracted from the regulation:

“This Regulation shall apply to animals of the avian species.
However, it shall not apply to:
(f) racing pigeons which are introduced to the territory of the Union from a neighbouring third country where they are normally resident and then immediately released with the expectation that they will fly back to that third country.”

Nevertheless, I considered it prudent to seek confirmation from the relevant authority than no additional health documentation is required. I am pleased to communicate that I have received confirmation from the Centre for International Trade (via the APHA) that pigeons transported to an EU state are exempt from the requirements that have caused so much concern.

The reply is quoted below:

“Your understanding is correct; effectively there is no change to the requirements. Retained EU Regulation 139/2013 [1] does exclude racing pigeons in the scope in Article 2, and no additional documentation would be required.  There is just a change to our country status from a member state to ‘neighbouring third country’.”

I am sure members will be pleased to read this confirmation.

Please note that this relates to the transportation of pigeons for racing purposes, and not the permanent import of pigeons from the EU. In this respect I am still seeking further clarification and will update members as soon as I am in receipt of such information.

In addition to the above I am also aware of information circulating relating to vehicle emissions. I have seen social media posts that suggest there is a blanket ban on vehicles that don’t meet certain emission requirements travelling in France. This is not true. However, there are currently a limited amount of low emission zones with certain restrictions; we will publish information shortly outlining where these emission zones exist.

Ian Evans
CEO

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