The European Council of Young Farmers, CEJA, has said that animal welfare requires a “collective effort” along the entire value chain.

On December 7, the European Commission presented a proposal for a revision of the EU rules for the protection of animals during transport.

CEJA has said that it demonstrates that animal welfare matters at every stage in the life of farm animals, with the involvement of more actors than only farmers.

These proposals would see a minimum age of five weeks and minimum weight 50kg for unweaned calves to be transported.

There will also be a journey of nine hours maximum for animals transported for slaughter under these proposals.

According to the European young farmers’ organisation, the commission’s proposal gives up on a total ban on live animal exports but “cut corners on the practical implications” of certain new rules that would impact farmers’ activity and working cycles.

CEJA – animal welfare

Animal welfare is crucial to the daily work of livestock farmers, not only as a response to civil society and consumers, but also as a personal duty, given farmers’ understanding of the benefits of a physically healthy and unstressed herd, according to CEJA.

Katharina Schobersberger, CEJA vice-president and young pig farmer from Austria said: “Animal welfare requires a collective effort involving all players in the value chain. The transport of animals is a clear proof of this.

“We want to see an improved image for all the operators involved so that the entire value chain is not reduced to the bad behaviours and practices of a few.”

Following the work carried out with its member organisations in 2022, CEJA noted a lack of enforcement and harmonisation of the existing EU rules.

It has stressed that it is crucial to align similar conditions throughout the single market.

The organisation has also recommended the training of the people in charge of animal transportation.

CEJA stated that feedback from young farmers indicated that too severe restrictions in terms of travel times would entail heavy economic and social consequences for breeding stock farmers, and for non-continental and most remote farms.

“The proposal’s technicalities will require careful consideration to create the necessary flexibility improvements and avoid an oversimplification of a complex subject,” Ceja stated.

“For instance, selling older unweaned animals might seem profitable at first due to potentially higher prices, but it is more complicated than it seems.

“Not only can the higher price not be promised, but additional costs will arise, linked to the need for extra space, feed, medication, time and labour.

“The constraints must be realistic; the incurred costs and risks must be shared.”

CEJA said that it will continue its work on the legislative proposal to better assess the consequences on the ground, paying particular attention to the transition periods envisaged.