Any revisions to animal transport should be based on solid science, according to the representative body for farmers and cooperatives in Europe.

The comments from Copa-Cogeca follow a vote in the European Parliament’s Committee on Inquiry on the Protection of Animals During Transport (ANIT) yesterday (Thursday, December 2).

The decision came after an investigation into alleged contraventions of European Union (EU) law in relation to the protection of animals during transport, within and outside the union.

The vote saw the adoption of a report into animal transport, which contained a recommendation to end transport for unweaned calves under the age of five weeks.

The move has caused concern that this could cause a backlog of calves on Irish farms, and as a result, could lead to animal welfare issues.

Animal transport review

Copa-Cogeca said the review of current legislation on animal transport is overdue.

“There is a need for a revision after 16 years since it was first
approved and a science-based update may further guarantee a harmonised
enforcement and implementation of the Regulation 1/2005 across the member states,” the group stated.

However, it said the result of the vote is “quite disappointing and worrying for EU farmers”, claiming most of its content is not sufficiently referenced nor backed by solid scientific evidence.

The body also claims that the decision limits the room for manoeuver on the recommendation when it is voted on in January 2022, and may end up damaging the sector, by basing the outcome more on emotions, rather than facts.

EU animal welfare standards

The chairperson of the Working Party on Animal Welfare at Copa-Cogeca, Miguel Angel Higuera, welcomed the review of EU animal welfare legislation in a holistic manner, with a robust scientific basis.

“We also insist that one thing is not omitted from this report – the fact that EU standards on animal welfare, are among the highest in the world,” Higuera said.

He said this should be highlighted and better conveyed to EU citizens and consumers.

“Transportation of live animals plays a vital role in maintaining the economic strength and social vibrancy of territories across the EU,” Higuera added.

Science-based adjustments

Copa-Cogeca is recommending that the European Commission asks the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to look into science-based adjustments as a way to improve the quality of animal transport, especially over long distances.

The group said the quality of the environment in the vehicles for transport is very important for animal welfare.

Copa-Cogeca said the EU cannot apply its rules in other territories nor force them to comply with EU standards.

To promote more mutual understanding on animal welfare, the umbrella body concluded that the EU should continue to cooperate with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).