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29th Jan 2023

Opinion

Five EU states seek to improve animal transportation

  • New rules are need on journey times, maximum temperatures, and height and space allowances (Photo: European Parliament)
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On Monday (18 July), EU agriculture ministers will discuss how to protect animals during transport. This was put on the agenda by Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, countries that have been at the forefront of the policy push to address this issue.

Every year, millions of animals are exported in dreadful conditions unaware of what is in store for them at their final destination. Once the animals reach non-EU shores, they are no longer protected by EU law and literally anything can, and is, done to them.

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The animal transport question has always been close to the heart of EU citizens, who have repeatedly called for the ban of live exports, asking for this cruel trade to be replaced by meat and carcasses instead.

Despite this, we have seen a general trend of inaction by the EU institutions and, despite the hard work of a handful of valiant MEPs, the EU has so far failed to ban the transport of live animals.

Compassion in World Farming has been at the forefront in exposing the injustices and the immense suffering behind this trade, from daily breaches of the legislation to the brutal incidents and mistreatment that cause the death of many animals.

Over the years, together with others, we have drawn the EU's attention to these issues. Most recently, in May, we sent letters to the agriculture ministers of the EU, urging them to call for significant improvements in the transport of farmed animals, both within and outside the EU.

A group of EU countries, the quintet of Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden, requested that EU ministers discuss the issue of animal transport during the agriculture and fisheries council meeting set for Monday (18 July).

The five countries also presented a position paper outlining the flaws of this trade and proposing science-based alternatives that can improve the welfare conditions of transported animals.

Duration, temperature, space

In their position paper, the five countries call for new rules regarding a maximum journey time, defining a fixed temperature range over which transport is not allowed, an update of internal heights and space allowances, harmonised training of staff and a legal definition of unweaned calves or lambs.

The countries rightly call for the transport of meat and carcasses and emphasise how this can be much more advantageous than the transport of live animals.

During the meeting of EU ministers, these issues need to be raised.

In addition, member states must firmly reject any transport of unweaned animals. The current state of affairs allows the separation of baby animals from their mothers who are then transported during long and exhausting journeys.

Adding to the traumatic separation, the forced weaning prevents the babies from fully developing their immune system, making them even more vulnerable to the difficulties experienced during the journey itself.

The initiative by Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden comes at an opportune time. The EU Commission has embarked on a revision of animal welfare laws and animal transport is one of the issues they are looking into.

We can only hope to see other agriculture ministers follow the lead of these five countries, increase overall ambition and support legislation capable of stopping the suffering of animals during transport.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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