Although there is no direct EU competence on hunting, there are various Directives and Regulations which either directly or indirectly impact on hunting.
Through different EU competencies – such as the environment, public & animal health, internal market, common commercial policy, agriculture, freedom, security & justice competencies – a rather extensive body of EU legal acts affecting hunting has been adopted over the past four decades:
When FACE was formally founded back in 1977, it was as a result of national hunting associations engaging with the process which led to the adoption in 1979 of the Birds Directive, 2009/147/EC. This, the very first legal instrument of the European Community (the predecessor to the EU) specifically dealing with nature conservation, relates to the conservation of all species of naturally occurring birds in the wild state in the Union. It covers the protection, management and control of these species and their habitats and lays down rules for their exploitation, including through hunting.
In 1992 the EU governments adopted the Habitats Directive, 92/43/EEC, aimed at conserving EU’s most threatened mammal species and natural habitats. This Directive, along with the Birds Directive - commonly known as the EU Nature Directives – is at the heart of EU nature policy, and it remains the cornerstone of Natura 2000, the EU’s vast network of protected areas. Both of these directives recognise the role of sustainable hunting, while specifying limitations with regard to which species can be hunted, when hunting can take place and which methods and tools can be used.
As an accompanying measure for the establishment of the internal market by 1 January 1993, the Firearms Directive, 91/477/ECC (subsequently amended by Directive 2008/51/EC), was adopted enabling controls on the possession of weapons to be carried out within the EU. As regards the acquisition and possession of civilian firearms, including those used by hunters, the laws of the Member States must impose at least the requirements laid down in the Directive, but Member States are entitled to take more stringent measures than those provided for by the Directive. Another key element of the Directive is that it regulates the transfer of civilian firearms through two or more EU countries (intra-EU transfer), where the European Firearms Pass (EFP), an idea launched by FACE during the debate on the Directive in the late 1980s, has substantially facilitated hunters’ and sport shooters’ free movement with their firearms and ammunition.
The transfer of firearms and their ammunition by hunters and sport shooters to third countries outside the Union (extra-EU transfer) will be governed from 30 September 2013 by the new Firearms Regulation, (EU) No 258/2012. This legal act was adopted in 2012 and aims at implementing Article 10 of the United Nations’ Firearms Protocol into EU law. Acknowledging that legally possessed firearms by law-abiding hunter do not constitute an obstacle to the high ambitions of the EU to combat the illicit trafficking in firearms, the EU institutions included in this Regulation FACE’s suggestion to extend the use of the EFP to also apply to simplified procedures for EU hunters and sport shooters travelling to third countries. The Firearms Regulation should not be confused with the aforementioned Firearms Directive as they regulate different areas, and neither of the two legal acts affect national provisions concerning the carrying of firearms.
Commission Regulation (EU), No 185/2010 of 4 March 2010 laying down detailed measures for the implementation of the common basic standards on aviation security, permits Member States to allow passengers to carry ammunition in their hold baggage on condition that applicable safety rules are complied with. All Member States apply such exemptions, thereby allowing hunters to carry ammunition in their hold baggage.
This Regulation provides measures for the implementation of the Civil Aviation Security Regulation, (EC) No 300/2008.
The animal health requirements applicable to the non-commercial movement of hunting dogs and ferrets from one Member State to another (such as anti-rabies vaccination) is regulated by the Pet Regulation, (EC) No 998/2003. In 2010 the Commission made changes to this Regulation imposing stricter rules for the non-commercial movement of more than five dogs from one Member State to another. In those cases the dogs and ferrets must comply with the rules for commercial movements laid down in Council Directive 92/65/EEC.
A Commission delegated Regulation from 2011, (EU) No 1152/2011, permits Finland, Ireland, Malta and the UK to continue requiring a pre-movement treatment against Echinococcus multilocularis (tapeworm) for dogs travelling to these countries as of 1 January 2012.
For all movements, whatever the Member State of destination, the animal needs to be accompanied by the passport complying with the model in the Annex to Commission Decision 2003/803/EC.
The Food Hygiene Regulations – Council Regulation (EC) No 852/2004, Council Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 and Council Regulation (EC) No 854/2004 – regulate all stages of the production, processing, distribution and placing on the market of food intended for human consumption. Special exemptions for game meat for self-consumption and small quantities of game for the local market are foreseen but the Member States have to have national regulations for those situations in respect of food safety.
Hunters are under certain conditions also exempt from EU health rules on the treatment of animal by-products (ABP) resulting from hunting operations. The Animal By-Products Regulation, (EC) No 1069/2009, and the Commission implementing Regulation (EU) No 142/2011, exempt from their scope ABP from wild game (meat) supplied by the hunter in small quantities directly to the final consumer or to local retail establishments directly supplying the final consumer as well as wild game not collected after killing in accordance with good hunting practices. Member States may also apply special national exemptions for the preparations of hunting trophies from animals taken in the EU for private or non-commercial purposes.
In other cases than these, hunters are covered by the EU ABP Regulations’ provisions specifying how different risk categories of ABP must be disposed of (from disposal by incineration to appropriate treatment in approved establishments or plants). A special group of hunters who are covered by the EU Regulations on ABP are those who are importing hunting trophies into the EU of birds and ungulates that have not undergone a complete taxidermy treatment.
The EU Wildlife Trade Regulations – the basic Council Regulation (EC) No 338/97 and the implementing Commission Regulation (EC) No 865/2006 – directly transpose the provisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the EU. These Regulations are mainly relevant to hunters in relation to the import into or export from the EU of hunting trophies.
In 1991 the Trapping Regulation, (EEC) No 3254/91, was adopted. It prohibits the use of leghold traps in the EU and the introduction into the EU of pelts and manufactured goods of certain wild animal species originating in countries which catch them by means of leghold traps or trapping methods which do not meet international humane trapping standards.
The Seal Trade Regulation from 2009, (EC) No 1007/2009, bans the trade in seal products in the European Union. It applies to seal products produced in the EU and to imported products. Special exemptions apply to seal products which result from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and other indigenous communities as well as seal products resulting from hunting conducted for the sustainable management of marine resources. These can be placed on the market under certain conditions. Travellers are also allowed to import seal products for personal use. Detailed rules for the implementation of this Regulation is laid down in Commission Regulation (EU) No 737/2010.
More information on these legal acts is provided under the relevant sections on this website.