Our IAF movement into the realms of Animal Welfare has progressed cautiously over the last two years. Due to the sterling work by falconers in the field of Raptor Conservation, falconry’s opponents are no longer able to use conservationist arguments against us and they have turned to attacking us on emotional grounds, using Animal Rights polemics under the guise of Animal Welfare. In Doha, 2014 the IAF Council of Delegates approved a Position Statement (click here for link) and in his presidential address at the Posadas 2015 meeting, Adrian said:

"This issue is vital to the continued practice of falconry in a modern world.  The IAF is making very significant moves in this direction which we will discuss extensively at this meeting.  Here, I must commend the work of Prof. Dr. Tom Richter and Gary Timbrell and I must ask for the essential support for these efforts from our membership at this meeting.  The greatest challenge that lies ahead for falconry will be the challenge of the Animal Rights organizations and no region of the world can expect to be secure from this."

Later, in the same agenda of that Posadas meeting, our then VP for Europe and specialist in Animal Welfare, Tom Richter, made a presentation on a proposed Online Self-audit and Online Course aimed at falconers and people using falconry techniques. He made it clear that:

"1.       Animal Welfare is especially dangerous because there is neither a clear definition what “welfare” means, nor even a clear knowledge among the falconers’ community"

"2.       IAF is an international body and recognizes that in different countries traditions and methods are quite different, but some basic principles are universal and we must respect both. The Self Audit had been notified to Delegates and Club Representatives in the Agenda that had been emailed to them in July 2015, before the Posadas meeting. It is visible online in a “practice” version (click here for link). Particularly important are the requests for back-up photos and document-uploads to back up the information given. In general, the reception by Council was good and discussions moved towards the wording of individual questions rather than on whether or not this was a good idea in itself."

A Motion was taken on both the Welfare Self-audit and proposed Welfare Course for Falconers: the motion was to go forward with this project, allowing time for extensive email discussion, suggestions, and amendments. Proposed by Antonio Carapuço, seconded by Frits Kleyn. Votes against: 5. Votes for 71. No abstentions. The motion was passed.



Position Statement: the points made in the Position Statement are the formation the basic text of www.raptorwelfare.org , currently visible online, but not yet actively promoted, since there is much to be added on that site, for example links to national club websites that already have welfare guidelines. It is proposed that the raptor welfare website be kept separate to the main IAF website in order to double our search engine promotional possibilities. 

Both the Maltese Government and the Flanders Government of Belgium are using the IAF Position Statement guidelines in the drafting of new animal welfare legislation. The authorities of both countries had asked their falconry clubs for stakeholder input into the legislative process and the falconers of both countries were able to show expertise, due to the existence of the IAF Position Statement. The Flanders Government even invited the Federation of Belgian Falconry Clubs and IAF to run a very successful workshop to educate their veterinary inspectors, customs officials and police officers on this topic.

Online Self-audit: the content of the Online Self-audit itself has been discussed in the AC and has received approval, subject to input from the Council of Delegates. You can access the form by clicking on this link and you can also complete it if you like, the results will not be stored until approval of the wording has been received from the Council of Delegates via an emailed vote (to be notified shortly), but it will be much simpler to understand if you do go through the process. One of the most frequently made statements during discussions at the Posadas meeting and subsequently, has been: “Almost no-one will respond to this.” It really does not matter how many respond, the important things are that the authorities see that this is in place, thus establishing a falconers’ organization (IAF) as the experts in Raptor Welfare, and that people learn from it. It has already worked in Flanders and Malta.

Online Course: IAF is also developing its on-line training program for a Certificate in Animal Welfare with respect to raptors.  This is principally to let it be seen by the government authorities that the welfare of raptors used in falconry is addressed by the most competent expert body – IAF – to possibly encourage some guidelines to be eventually incorporated into law, we know our opposition is already attempting this and to encourage more understanding of good-science-based animal welfare within the falconry community i.e., the good guys in the falconry community. We cannot force the bad guys, just hope to show them the way

We now have the software for this in place and the course program is being worked on. It will have several modules created by the IAF and co-opted experts to develop them.  The modules address the concepts and principles of animal welfare and train the students on how to assess the welfare of raptors under their care and they will be available to veterinary inspectors as well. The format will be over several weeks, one module per week consisting of four or five video lectures and associated reading material with a test at the end of each module. On completion of each week’s module the student can move on to the next one. At the end of the entire course a total score for the tests will be added and a pass-mark established towards getting the certificate. Some suggested modules are listed here (others can be added):

Week 1: What is Animal Welfare, why does it matter?

Week 2: Responsibilities to Captive Animals

Week 3: Falconry is hunting, welfare arising in falconry as a hunting method

Week 4: Relevance of (or lack of relevance of) falconry techniques in other disciplines

In the group of co-opted experts, we hope to include experts from falconry clubs who have already produced welfare material (DFO, NAFA, UK Hawk Board, the Belgian Federation etc.) and experts who are not falconers and not hunters but do have specialized knowledge (vets for example).

Please send your ideas and suggestions, including any useful links to your club and national guidelines and laws.

 Gary Timbrell, EO

Here you could also download official copy of this letter.