3.12.2021, Brussels – Compassion in World Farming EU calls on the European Parliament to go beyond yesterday’s weak recommendations from a key committee and vote for strict limits on live animal transport, including an outright ban on live exports to outside the European Union.
Reacting to the recommendations approved by the Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (ANIT), Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU, said:
“These recommendations fall far short of the measures needed to end the abject suffering millions of farmed animals have to endure on the often long journeys to where they are to be fattened or slaughtered. This suffering is inherent in the current regime governing live animal transport, both within and outside the EU, because the rules are too lax and often poorly enforced by governments. As the committee’s investigations show, transport is often traumatic for animals. It should be minimised as far as possible, not encouraged. Animals are sentient beings that feel stress, fear and pain, not inanimate objects to be trucked around like furniture or cabbages!
She continued: “While we applaud the perseverance and tenacity of some members of the committee who want to improve conditions for animals, its recommendation of better enforcement of the current rules is by no means enough. The rules themselves need to be considerably tightened. In plenary the Parliament must vote for a ban on live exports to outside the EU because there is no way to apply EU animal protection rules in third countries – and a mountain of evidence that animals often meet a horrific end. The live exports horror show should be replaced by trade in meat and carcasses. And for transport within the EU, to provide an adequate level of welfare we are calling on the Parliament to vote for live transport to be allowed only within defined temperature limits and in all cases to be limited to no more than 4 hours for poultry and rabbits, which are particularly vulnerable during transport, and 8 hours for other species.”
The suffering live exports inflict on animals
Farmed animals suffer during transport due to being packed closely together for often long and exhausting journeys, in weather that can be extremely hot or cold. Inappropriate feeding and drinking devices, or difficulty in accessing them, can leave animals debilitated by hunger and thirst. Even unweaned calves are transported from the age of 14 days on long journeys, suffering hunger, thirst and thermal stress which heavily impacts their weak immune system. Nor is any special care given to pregnant animals, which sometimes end up giving birth in terrible conditions on board vehicles or ships.
Journeys by road and/or sea are particularly long and stressful to countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Libya and Algeria which are considered high-risk for animal welfare. Cases of tremendous cruelty in third countries are commonplace but it is impossible for the EU to enforce its animal protection legislation beyond its borders. Hence the need for live exports to stop.
The weak files voted in the Animal Transport Committee
The ANIT committee’s report, backed by scientific evidence and investigations carried out in Bulgaria and Denmark, highlights clearly how the current system fails to adequately protect farmed animals during transport. Yet despite this strong analysis of the problem, the recommendations approved today mainly focus on improving enforcement of the current rules – something EU governments have long failed to give priority to – and on technical aspects of transport. Furthermore, today’s vote resulted in the exclusion of an amendment limiting journey time to maximum 8 hours, a vital reform that the EU Parliament should safeguard during the next plenary. Nonetheless, Compassion in World Farming EU welcomes the determination of some MEPs from the ANIT Committee, which ensured the presence in the text of specific recommendations safeguarding pregnant animals and unweaned calves.
Compassion in World Farming EU urges the European Parliament to call for the following measures when it votes in plenary session at the beginning of next year:
- Ban live animal exports to third countries by all transport modes and replace them with trade in meat, carcasses and genetic materials
- Adopt measures to reduce transport of live animals within the EU:
- No transport of unweaned animals;
- No transport of pregnant animals if more than 40% of the expected gestation period has already passed;
- Sea transport to be carried out only under very strict rules, always with a veterinarian present on board and with feasible contingency plans for emergencies;
- Species-specific and category-specific (e.g. lactating/non lactating, at the end of their production cycle, etc.) temperature ranges within which transport can take place;
- Introduction of absolute journey time limits of 4 hours for poultry and rabbits and 8 hours for all other species.