About the Danish Veterinary Task Force Unit ...

According to the Danish Animal Welfare Act, animals should be treated carefully and properly and protected as well as possible from pain, suffering, fear, disablement and major inconvenience. The responsibility to carry out inspections on certain animal welfare provisions has been delegated to
the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

Most inspectors within the administration are veterinarians. The act on animal welfare lays down special obligations for all veterinarians in relation to animal welfare. The administration carries out inspections on a routine basis, normally on 5 % of all farms. As a rule, the police reacts initially to complaints on veterinary issues, but very often these cases will require an assessment from an official veterinarian.

A veterinary task force unit has been established within the framework of the administration. This unit has various tasks regarding animal welfare and use of veterinary medicine. Examples are animal welfare inspections of livestock which are carried out as a thematic inspection (for instance proper on-farm euthanization of animals or the treating of sick and injured animals) or campaigns (for instance regarding transport of livestock or the use of veterinary medicine on horse farms). In addition, the unit inspects and supervises practicing veterinarians. The transport inspections are carried out in cooperation with the Danish traffic police. The unit cooperates directly with other authorities - typically the police as mentioned, but also the tax authorities, the Danish Plant Directorate, and the Danish Pharmaceutical Administration.

As opposed to the routine inspections where the entire farm undergoes a thorough inspection, the thematic inspections allow the unit to inspect a limited number of farms (normally between 50 and 60) on certain issues which are deemed likely to present general problems in the industry. The  number of farms compared to the offences found does not generate a statistically reliable materiel, but it is however likely to show some tendencies that the industry is forced to address.

In recent years, animal welfare on mink farms has been one of the ongoing topics for the unit’s thematic inspections; an area with a constant political focus and an increasing interest from the public and the media. The dialogue with the industry, the media, and the rest of the administration plays a vital part of the success of the concept. When a future thematic campaign is in preparation, the unit relies on information from the rest of the administration regarding general welfare issues that need a focused inspection. The industry is informed about the forthcoming campaign and the issues that will be inspected. A number of random farms are appointed before the campaign is launched. The identity of the farms remains however classified and the specific inspections are unwarned. At the end of a campaign, a press release is send to the industry and the media with information on the results. The concept allows the unit to complete a campaign relatively fast (normally between 1 to 2 months) which again helps to maintain the constant interest and attention of the relevant counterparts from beginning to completion.

The task force currently consists of 17 veterinarians, 1 secretary, and 2 legal advisers. Apart from the other tasks mentioned, the unit carries out four to five thematic inspection campaigns each year.
About the author:
Peter Chr. Gulmann has been working as an animal welfare lawyer for The Danish Veterinary Task Force Unit since April 2010.

Before studying law, he worked as an army officer for a few years. He obtained his LL.M. degree in August 2004 and worked as a military legal adviser for the Danish Army Operational Command from 2005 to 2008. After a very brief stopover at Aarhus University doing contract law for 6 uneventful months, he continued to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration which eventually lead him to his current position.

He lives in the city of Silkeborg in mid-eastern Jutland, Denmark, together with his wife, his son, and a very lively labrador retriever.