Member states urged to ‘get tougher’ on live export rules

The EU and its member states must “get tougher” on enforcing existing rules on protecting transported animals and penalise all offenders, the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee has stated.

In a resolution – adopted by 22 votes in favour to 12 against – with four abstentions, the Agriculture Committee reiterated parliament’s 2012 call for a strong and harmonised enforcement of the 2005 EU law on the protection of animals during transport.

As it stands, the committee warns that the rules are “poorly applied” in some member states.

Particularly, the committee is urging member states to carry out more unannounced and risk-based checks – with tougher penalties for offenders.

Its calling for a reduction in transport time and transport carcasses rather than live animals; and better enforcement of existing rules – with the help of new technology.

Tougher penalties

A statement on behalf of the MEPs who voted to pass the resolution said: “To this end, the EU Commission should not shy away from imposing sanctions on member states which fail to apply the EU rules correctly.

“Member states, for their part, should prosecute breaches of the EU rules with effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties, harmonised at EU level, reflected the damage, scope, duration and recurrence of the infringement.”

These MEPs argued that penalties should include a confiscation of vehicles and mandatory retraining of staff in animal welfare.

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MEPs want to deploy modern technology to improve enforcement of current rules.

They called on the commission to develop geo-location systems that would enable animals’ location and the duration of journeys in vehicles to be tracked.

They also demand “a real-time feedback loop” between points of departure and arrival and penalties for those who falsely fill in journey logs.

The Agriculture Committee’s proposed steps for tackling animal welfare issues include:
  • Carrying out more unannounced and risk-based checks;
  • Informing authorities in all countries along the transport route if a breach is identified;
  • Pushing transporters to develop systems to prevent breaches;
  • Suspending or withdrawing transporters’ licences for repeat offences;
  • Banning non-compliant vehicles and vessels;
  • Adapting ports for animal welfare requirements and improve pre-loading checks.

MEPs pushed for a new 2020-2024 animal welfare strategy and a clear definition of what constitutes fitness for transport and guidelines on how to assess it.

They called for a science-based update of EU rules on transport vehicles to ensure:
  • Sufficient ventilation and temperature control;
  • Appropriate drinking systems and liquid feed;
  • Reduced stocking densities and specified sufficient minimum headroom;
  • And vehicles adapted to the needs of each species.

The Agriculture Committee also stated that animal journey times should be “as short as possible”.

It called on the promotion of alternative strategies, such as local or mobile slaughter and meat processing facilities close to the place of rearing.

Alternatively, on-farm slaughter was also suggested where applicable to short distribution circuits and direct sales.

Cutting transport time

MEPs have asked the commission to carry out research on appropriate journey times for different species and to develop a strategy to shift from live animal transport, mainly to transport of meat-and-carcass and germinal products when possible.

The adopted text also insists that unless transport standards in non-EU countries are aligned with the EU ones and properly enforced, the EU should seek to mitigate the differences through bilateral agreements or, if not possible, ban transport of live animals to these countries.

MEPs also want EU states bordering non-EU countries to provide rest areas where animals could be unloaded and given food and water while waiting to leave the EU.

Jorn Dohrmann, committee rapporteur, said: “Actors in the transport chain need to live up to their obligations, whether they are farmers, traders of animals, veterinarians, or transport companies.

We have now made it clear to the commission and the member states that they must do so, either by enforcing current rules properly or by looking into new policy tools to apply new technology and minimise transport times.

The text approved by the Agriculture Committee will now be scrutinised by the Parliament as a whole, most probably during the February 11-14 plenary session in Strasbourg.

Background to proposal

Every year, millions of animals are transported between member states, within member states and to non-EU countries over long distances for breeding, rearing, further fattening and slaughter but also for recreation, competitions and as companions.

Following media reports of ill-treatment of transported animals, the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents (EP president and political groups’ leaders) tasked the Agriculture Committee with drafting an implementation report on how EU rules are being enforced in practice.