The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has welcomed amendments to proposed new EU animal transport rules as “realistic” and “practical”.

The proposed new transport rules were initiated and debated by the EU Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transit (ANIT). 

The key proposals brought forward by the committee were: A complete ban on the transport of unweaned animals under 35 days of age; a maximum journey time of two hours for unweaned animals over 35 days; and a ban on the transport of pregnant animals in the last third of gestation.

The amendments adopted yesterday (Thursday, January 20) will see less severe and more flexible alternatives put in place, rather than the original proposals.

The finalised proposals will now go forward in a report to the EU Commission and, if approved, could be in place by the end of 2023.

Animal transport vote

MEPs on the ANIT committee voted to reduce a proposed age limit, before which unweaned calves should not be transported, from 35 days to 28 days.

A potential outright ban on the transport of animals in the last third of gestation was also amended to allow transport of up to four hours’ duration.

Ray Doyle, environment and livestock executive of ICOS said: “The Irish calf export trade is an essential part of our dairy sector where very high quality calves are produced to high standards of animal welfare and husbandry, and are transported by responsible and caring operators.

“The original 35-day proposed limit would have had a seriously detrimental impact on the Irish calf export trade which underpins the economic viability and livelihood of dairy farms, who collectively produce over 150,000 calves for export each year.

“The amended proposals are more realistic and practical in nature. These amendments represent flexibilities which we campaigned for, and we also acknowledge the work of Irish MEPs Billy Kelleher and Colm Markey who represented the best interests of Irish dairy farming in promoting the amendments within the ANIT committee,” Doyle added.

ICOS has said that everyone understands that animal welfare is a top priority and that everyone must work together to ensure that the high standards Ireland has in place are preserved and enhanced for the future. 

The society added that “these high standards must be replicated consistently across Europe and each member state has a significant obligation in this regard, hence the EU Parliament’s concern and emphasis on these issues”.

The ANIT report will inform the ongoing European Commission review of current legislation.

ICOS expects new legislation on animal welfare during transport to be proposed by the commission in 2023, which the European Parliament and EU countries will have a further say on.