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October 25, 2022

Policymakers are acting sluggishly in implementing a ban on tie-stall housing. We outline what has happened in recent years and show why it is important to act now!

Last updated on May 07, 2024

Under pressure from society, politicians are repeatedly addressing the issue of tie-stall housing. They enact laws and regulations, which they soften again through exceptions. This chronology provides an insight into the political developments in Austria. Information about the developments in Germany can be found here.

2003 to 2004: United animal protection laws

In Austria, ten different regional animal protection laws are in force until 2004, each containing different regulations. In 2003, the National Council complies with the demand of the animal protection referendum of 1996 and initiates an animal protection law at the federal level (1).

At the end of 2003, the newly drafted Animal Welfare Act will enter a review phase during which suggestions for improvement and proposals will be collected publicly. The proposed law includes a ban on permanent tethering (2).

Brown and white cow looks frontally into the camera
© Lukas Vincour / Zvířata Nejíme / We Animals Media

The new Federal Animal Protection Act only provides the framework for animal husbandry. The exact husbandry regulations, on the other hand, are governed by ordinances. The Chamber of Agriculture criticizes that this leads to uncertainty in planning for farmers. "Sensitive issues", such as tie-stall housing, should be regulated with a law instead of ordinances. Furthermore, the Chamber of Agriculture demands a "correction in the sense of our cattle farmers", as the new regulation would otherwise endanger small farms in mountain areas (3).

The farmers' association fears competition from ten other countries shortly before the EU enlargement in 2004. They therefore do not want stricter regulations of keeping cattle than the European Union (EU) standard and demand an EU-wide solution (4).

At the same time as the submission of the bill for the Animal Protection Act, the Green Party introduces a motion in the Vienna state parliament. They wanted to change the law in Vienna to ban tie-stall housing (5), (6).

(1) Federal Ministry Republic of Austria Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection. (2019). Allgemeines zum Tierschutzgesetz.

(2) APA. (2003). Schüssel: Neues Tierschutzgesetz stellt Tier in den Mittelpunkt. Press release.

(3) AIZ. (2003) Schwarzböck: Tierschutzgesetz darf Wettbewerbsfähigkeit nicht beeinträchtigen. Press release.

(4) AIZ. (2003). Schwarzböck: Neues Tierschutzgesetz muss auf das Machbare ausgerichtet sein. Press release.

(5) Wiener Landtag. (2003). Wörtliches Protokoll des Wiener Landtag. 17. Wahlperiode. 17. Sitzung vom 27. November 2003.

(6) Wiener Landtag. (2003). Wiener Landtag. Tierschutzgesetz. Press release.

Ordinances weaken the law

After publication of the ordinances, it is apparent that the fears of the states are justified. The federal Animal Welfare Act with its accompanying ordinances lowers many animal welfare standards in the states (7). Bans that had already been enforced in some states, such as the cage ban for "laying hens," will be lifted.

The announced ban on tethering also fails to deliver what it promises through regulation by ordinance. The ordinance counters the ban with a series of exceptions. For example, the ban can be suspended if no suitable exercise areas are available or if structural conditions or safety aspects for humans and animals do not permit any exercise (8).

© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

(7) Animal Spirit. (2004). Petition an die Bundesregierung betreffend das neue bundeseinheitliche Tier”schutz”gesetz. Press release.

(8) Bundesgetzblatt Nr. BGBI. II Nr. 485/2004.

New legislation is adopted despite criticism

There is widespread criticism of the planned new legislation. On the one hand, there are animal welfare organizations that consider the regulations too lax (9). On the other side are farmers who feel that the new regulations provide too little legal certainty (10). According to animal welfare spokeswoman Ulli Sima (Social democratic Party, SPÖ), the exceptions undermine the entire ban on tethering (11).

On the 19th of May 2004 government and opposition parties agree on the Federal Animal Protection Act in an all-night meeting. The law is to be passed in the National Council on 27th of May 2004. The law is to come into force at the beginning of the following year (12). With it the responsibility in the ministries changes. From now on the Minister of Health and Women's Affairs is also responsible for animal welfare (13).

Years will follow in which year-round tethering will be banned and the animals will have to be allowed to roam at least 90 days a year. At the same time, the ban does not actually exist, because the associated ordinance lists many exceptions.

(9) Four Paws. (2004). Bundestierschutzgesetz bitte warten. Press release.

(10) AIZ. (2004). Schwarzböck: Tierschutzgesetz darf bäuerliche Tierhaltung nicht unmöglich machen. Press release.

(11) SPÖ. (2003). Sima zu Tierschutzgesetz: SPÖ wird keine Verschlechterung akzeptieren. Press release.

(12) Standard Redaktion. (2004). Chronologie: Der lange Weg zur Vier-Parteien-Einigung. Vom Tierschutz-Volksbegehren 1996 bis heute.

(13) Ministerium Frauen Gesundheit. (2017). Tierschutzbericht 2017. Bericht an den Nationalrat.

2016 to 2017: Amendment of the Animal Welfare Act and the Animal Husbandry Ordinance

In December 2016, the Austrian government is submitting two proposed amendments for review. These deal on the one hand with the amendment of the Animal Welfare Act and on the other hand with the amendment of the Ordinance for Agricultural Animal Husbandry. Among other things, the amendments concern tie-stall housing.

Numerous organization and the opposition criticize the drafts (14), (15), (16), (17), (18), (19), since tie-stall housing should remain legal by exceptions. The Ombudsman Board has tabled an amendment that allows exceptions to the ban only in justified individual cases and for a limited period of time (20). The amendment to the Animal Welfare Act has resulted in a total of 660 objections (21).

The National Council passes the amendment to the Animal Protection Act in March 2017. The amendment proposed by the Ombudsman Board was not implemented. The numerous exceptions to the ban on tethering are now cemented in the Animal Welfare Act (22). This is tantamount to a legalization of this form of husbandry. With the many exceptions there is always a reason for not granting the animals free exercise (23).

The Federal Ministry of Health and Women enacts the amendment to the 1st Animal Husbandry Ordinance in the following June (24). The exceptions to the ban were removed from the ordinance because, as mentioned, they are now written into the Animal Welfare Act. The argument used previously that the exceptions are against the law has now no longer any basis. Thus, countless cattle must continue to endure their existence tethered, which is contrary to their welfare (25).

(14) Four Paws. (2017). VIER PFOTEN und Tierschutzombudsstelle Wien warnen: Tierschutz-Gesetzesnovellen extremer Rückschritt. Press release.

(15) Association Against Animal Factories (VGT). (2017). Stellungnahme zu geplantem Tierschutzgesetz: VGT kritisiert fehlendes Aussetzverbot Fasane. Press release.

(16) Verband österreichischer (2017). Tierschutzgesetz-Novelle: Wenig Verbesserungen, problematische Verschlechterungen. Press release.

(17) Wiener Tierschutzverein. (2017). WTV zur Tierschutzgesetz-Novelle: Rückschritt in die Steinzeit?. Press release.

(18) Animal Spirit. (2017). ANIMAL SPIRIT zur Tierschutzgesetz-Novelle: Mehr Rück- als Fortschritte. Press release.

(19) Grüner Klub im Parlament. (2017). Tierschutz neu: Grüne befürchten Verschlechterungen. Press release.

(20) Grüner Klub im Parlament. (2017). Brunner zur Tierschutz-Gesetz-Novelle: Tierschutz im 21. Jahrhundert sieht anders aus! Press release.

(21) Animal Spirit. (2017). ANIMAL SPIRIT: Tierschutz erwartet von neuer Ministerin Rendi-Wagner Berücksichtigung der Änderungswünsche. Press release.

(22) Four Paws. (2017). Neues Tierschutzgesetz zementiert Anbindehaltung für Rinder. Press release.

(23) Kronen Zeitung. (2017, 24.03.). Tierschutzgesetz zementiert Rinder-Anbindehaltung.

(24) Bundesgesetzblatt für die Republik Österreich. (2017). Änderung der 1. Tierhaltungsverordnung.

(25) Verband österreichischer Tierschutzorganisationen- (2017). Neue Tierschutzverordnung erlassen: Kein Grund zur Freude. Press release.

2021 to 2022: The end of tie-stall housing?

In 2021, a group around activist Sebastian Bohrn Menas launched a new animal protection initiative. It aims primarily at a systemic improvement for so-called farm animals. Point 1.1 in the list of demands requires that the forms of husbandry must satisfy the basic needs of animals. In the more exact execution it is called in the first place that it must be possible for the animals to move sufficiently (26).  

Almost half a million people sign the referendum. The politicians are put on the spot to work on an animal protection package, which they will present in May 2022. This will be passed in parliament by the governing parties ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) and the Greens after a review period in July (27).

Hind parts of tethered cows
© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

The package includes a new regulation on tethering throughout the year. The ban, which has existed for years, is to be enforced and the exceptions deleted. However, this will not happen until 2030, as farmers need time to make the necessary changes.

There is a hail of criticism from animal welfare organizations. They criticize that the transition period is too long. They also criticize the fact that seasonal tethering remains untouched. Around 40 percent of all so-called dairy cows in Austria are tethered for up to 275 days a year. During a period of nine months a year, the animals must not have the opportunity to move around (28).

Also in Austria, other sectors such as politics are bringing more movement to the issue. At the end of July, AgrarMarkt Austria (AMA) announced that from the end of 2023 there will no longer be any quality labels for farms with year-round tethering (29). AMA was assigned the task of promoting the sale of local agricultural products in the course of Austria's accession to the EU. They pursue this goal with the help of, among other things, advertising and quality labels (30). The Austrian dairy company Berglandmilch announces that, starting from January 1, 2025, they will no longer purchase milk from farms practicing year-round tethering.

Take away

The chronology shows that the agricultural lobby is holding back politicians from consequently implementing a ban on tie-stall housing. Although animal welfare organizations and society have shown resistance to this form of husbandry, which is contrary to animal welfare, for decades.

After decades of discussion, it was decided in Austria in July 2022 that the ban on all-year tethering is to be implemented without exception from 2030. In Germany, the process of amending the Animal Welfare Act, which began in 2023, addresses the phase-out of year-round tethering. In Switzerland, there is currently no significant movement in the discussion. In all three countries seasonal tethering remains permitted.

Due to the recently decided consequent implementation of the ban on year-round tethering from 2030 onwards, there is again movement in the discussion. This is the moment for animal protection organizations and the engaged public to become increasingly active. Now it is important to exert pressure so that not only year-round, but also seasonal tethering is banned - now and not in eight years!

(26) Das Tierschutzvolksbegehren. (2021). Tierschutz ist ein Volksbegehren. Forderungskatalog.

(27) Koch, J. (2022). Österreich beschließt das Aus für Vollspaltenboden und Anbindehaltung. Bayerisches Landwirtschaftliches Wochenblatt.

(28) Spreer, J. (2022, 04.05.). Österreich präsentiert neues Tierschutzpaket- für NGOs zu wenig. T&N.

(29) Greil, F. (2022, 28.07.). Neues AMA Modul: “Tierhaltung+”. Topagrar.

(30) Agrarmarkt Austria.(o.D.). Die AMA stellt sich vor…. Imagefolder.

(31) Stracke, C. (02.10.2023). Berglandmilch: Ab 2025 keine Anbindehaltung. Elite





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