27th Mar 2023

Romania pushes live-animal exports despite EU criticism

  • Romania is losing close to €50m annually by sticking to live animal exports. Exporting processed meat instead would also bring over 5,000 new jobs into the economy, the study shows (Photo: Eurogroup for Animals)
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Almost two years since 14,000 sheep drowned off Romania's Black Sea coast, and the south-eastern EU member state has not improved the welfare of exported animals, let alone curbed the process altogether, according to international animal rights' welfare organisations.

Romania has actually consolidated its position, becoming EU's the largest exporter of live animals to third-party countries. The NGO Animals International pointed out that shipping live animals brings not only unnecessary suffering but is also detrimental to the economy.

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The animal welfare organisation is now reaching out to Romanian MPs, calling for a law to move past live animal exports and towards exporting processed and refrigerated meat.

In a study by Animals International, Romania is losing close to €50m annually by sticking to live animal exports. Exporting processed meat instead would also bring over 5,000 new jobs into the economy, the study shows.

"Romania has the opportunity to show kindness and do a great business deal all at the same time by completely replacing live exports with trade of added value meat products. It already has all the necessary infrastructure. All its business partners already accept processed and refrigerated meat. It is now only a matter of political will", Gabriel Păun, Animals International EU director, told EUobserver.

Speaking to EUobserver, Romanian MP Iulius Marian Firczak said he favoured the switch: "I think Romania should move towards a more humane method of exporting animal products, one that limits animal suffering and gets more revenue into the local economy."

Romania was caught off guard once again during a crisis in the Suez canal earlier this year when the country was the source of 130,000 of the 200,000 live animals stranded without food and water during the shipping bottleneck.

Animal rights NGOs at the time claimed that transporters would never admit that animals on board their ships were dying by the thousands and that ships never had the EU required 25 percent surplus of food and water.

Last year Romania was red-flagged by Brussels from failing to meet minimum transport conditions, after European Commission audits showed that cargo ships for live exports are hazardous to animal welfare.

A year before, the former EU Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis urged Romania - to no avail - to stop the export of 70,000 live sheep to the Persian Gulf, as temperatures inside the cargo vessel exceed 60 degrees Celsius.

Increased criticism from Brussels comes amidst the backdrop of stricter controls on live exports, as EU and non-EU member states are looking to phase out this practice.

However, condemnation from abroad and horrifying practices exposed by NGOs - such as, animals dying from the high temperatures, unloaded violently off ships, squeezed in car trunks and slaughtered by unskilled butchers - are not stopping Romania's booming live animal export.

"Hundreds of thousands of sheep and cattle shipped in excruciating conditions are literally cooked alive temperatures inside exceeding 60 degrees Celsius. It takes anywhere from one to three weeks for the livestock to reach destination. The appalling transport, handling and slaughter conditions defy the EU and international laws", said Paun.

The Romanian agriculture ministry vouched, however, to not only keep live animal exports to countries in the Middle East and North Africa, but increase the trade.

It remains to be seen whether appealing to the country's sheep-farming heritage, as in one recent animal welfare campaign, will sway Romania's decision makers to reduce or gradually stop live-animal exports.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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