Parliament demands bold steps to reduce and replace live animal transport

Copyright: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals with Eyes on Animals

Today the European Parliament massively called for the gradual replacement of live animal transport, a more regional model of livestock production, the forceful implementation of the EU Transport Regulation (EC 1/2005), and a ban on live exports if EU animal welfare standards are not respected. They also called for the establishment of a Parliamentary Inquiry during the next legislative term.

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An historic move took place today at the European Parliament, with the Plenary voting on the Implementation Report on live animal transport.

In the past 10 years over 200 reports denounced the terrible conditions of animals transported alive to the Commission and over a million European citizens have asked European Institutions twice to fundamentally change this reality. Yet, transported alive for up to several days or weeks without receiving feed, water and veterinary care, animals continue to experience the worst suffering every day, in disrespect of 21st century values and legislation.

Today’s exceptional Parliamentary report, that came after 2 years intensive campaigning by animal advocates through Eurogroup for Animals’ #stopthetrucks campaign, calls for concrete actions to  effectively improve the welfare of the animals transported. After witnessing the brutality of live animal transport, MEPs today collectively affirmed they want the EU to move away from this outdated practice and shift to a new way of trading animal products that is more respectful of the animals’ basic needs.

The report asks the Commission to develop a strategy to replace live animal transport with the trade of meat and carcasses, as well as embryos and semen, which in certain countries is already a reality. When that is not possible, Parliamentarians encourage the Council and Commission to develop a strategy for moving towards a more regional model of livestock production in which animals are born, fattened and slaughtered in the same region instead of being transported over extremely long distances.

MEP’s also recommended that in the short term a better implementation of the Transport regulation is needed.

The report for example stresses that unannounced Commission audits and strategic spot checks by national authorities would allow to address major and systematic violations. Echoing the Court of Auditors recommendations, the report also calls for infringement procedures against EU Member States as a way to prevent animal cruelty and increase compliance, and stress the role the Commission has to play as guardian of the treaties to ensure proper enforcement. In line with this, the EU Parliament also urges the EU Ombudsman to investigate whether the Commission has consistently failed to ensure compliance and is thus responsible for maladministration.

Concretely, the report recommends that unweaned animals are unloaded for at least one hour so they can be supplied with electrolytes or milk substitutes and that they are not transported for more than eight hours in total. Another very tangible recommendation is to favour on-farm, local or mobile slaughter.

But the report also goes further when it comes to ‘live animal exports’, the transport of live animals over hundreds of kilometers and during days, crossing many EU Member States’ boundaries to finally reach a destination outside the EU. Using extremely determined language, the plenary Parliament concludes that live animals exports constitute a serious problem and should be forbidden when EU welfare standards are not complied with in destination countries. This confirms the Court of Justice’s earlier interpretation of the Transport Regulation in its by now famous Zuchtvieh arrest.  

“I’ve seen for myself the terrible conditions that animals have to undergo when transported across the EU-Turkish border, particularly during extreme temperatures in the summer”, said MEP Jørn Dohrmann, Rapporteur of the Implementation Report. “EU citizens are deeply concerned about the welfare of animals during transport, and as their representatives, we have the duty to ensure that the necessary steps are taken to forbid the export of live animals to countries that do not meet our high standards on animal welfare or our EU legal requirements.”

The Implementation Report originated from an original request, signed by 223 MEPs, in support of an official EP inquiry to assess possible violations and maladministration by the European Commission, as well as by Member States. “The Commission of Inquiry, refused from the outset by the coalition of major groups, would have seriously investigated the actual conditions of transport of animals and proposed a legislative text,” said MEP Pascal Durand (Greens, FR). It is reassuring that the report now asks the Parliament to establish such a Committee of Inquiry during the next legislative term.

Eurogroup for Animals will build on today’s achievement, making sure that the Implementation Report translates into concrete measures for animal welfare. “The European Commission must now initiate the  shift towards the trade of meat and carcasses only,” said Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals. “At the same time, we’ll keep pressure on Member States and the Commission to make sure that animals are not transported during high temperatures or to countries where the EU Transport Regulation provisions are not respected.”

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