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16th Feb 2019

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EU mulls action to prevent cattle suffering at Turkish border

  • In June 2016, the commission recommended that member states refuse to authorise journeys to Turkey if the weather forecast indicated temperatures above 30C. (Photo: Eurogroup for Animals)

The European Commission is considering legal action against EU member states to protect farm animals from suffering in hot weather while waiting at the Bulgarian-Turkish border.

This can be concluded from the commission's response to an EUobserver access to documents request, which asked for recent correspondence between the commission and EU capitals about the transport of animals to Turkey.

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  • One year ago commission officials conducted a fact-finding mission at the border crossing between Kapitan Andreevo (Bulgaria) and Kapikule (Turkey). (Photo: Peanut99)

"The documents requested are letters exchanged with member states in the context of an ongoing administrative investigation on the implementation of regulation (EC) No 1/2005," said the commission's directorate-general for health and food safety in a letter to EUobserver.

EU regulation 1/2005 contains the rules for EU companies to protect animals during transport.

"The commission is at the moment carrying out different actions to gather information in order to ascertain whether there are eventual shortcomings in the implementation of regulation (EC) No 1/2005, and whether infringement proceedings could eventually be triggered," the letter said.

If the commission thinks that an EU member state is not carrying out an EU regulation properly, it can open so-called infringement proceedings – a subsequent set of legal measures which can end up with the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the EU condemning the EU state and demanding action.

The welfare of animals being transported from EU member Bulgaria to non-member Turkey have been a matter of concern for several years now, if those transports occur on hot days.

In June 2016, the commission recommended that member states refuse to authorise journeys to Turkey if the weather forecast indicated temperatures above 30C.

Unnecessary pain and distress

One year ago commission officials conducted a fact-finding mission at the border crossing between Kapitan Andreevo (Bulgaria) and Kapikule (Turkey).

The mission's report concluded that there was "a high risk of causing unnecessary pain and distress to animals transported on this route during hot days".

"At the Kapikule control point there are no facilities or provisions to facilitate the welfare of the animals. This, together with the lengthy administrative procedure in place to clear consignments implies that animals are likely to stay at least six hours in the vehicles just to cross the border," the report said.

It noted that the border crossing had "limited opening times" and that companies transporting animals to Turkey had to take that into account when planning journeys through Kapikule – or "risk not complying" with the EU regulation.

The regulation says that vehicles transporting animals are required to have ventilation systems that keep the temperature between 5C and 30C – with a 5C tolerance margin – regardless of whether the vehicles was moving or standing still.

Last year's commission report said that in 2016, there were 96 days when temperatures at Kapikule were above 30C, and 34 days when they were above 35C.

It noted that in 2016 the number of live ruminants exported to Turkey was over 290,000.

The commission sent letters to all EU states about this issue on 26 April and 16 July. It has received responses from 17 member states.

However, the commission said that all letters had to remain confidential, in the interest of its investigation.

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