The latest meeting of the European Parliament Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport took place yesterday (Monday, February 1).

The relatively new committee (it was established last year) held a wide-ranging debate on the issue – but perhaps too wide-ranging, one Irish MEP suggested.

Billy Kelleher, Fianna Fáil MEP for Ireland South, took part in the proceedings and, during his contribution, argued for the terms of reference of the committee to be adhered to.

We should look at the terms of reference that established this committee of inquiry. This committee is established to investigate alleged malpractice and contraventions in animal transport [regulations] and I think that this should be our primary role rather than rewriting the issues themselves.

“The fact of the matter is that there has been systemic failures and malpractice across the EU in terms of the transport of animals… The alleged breaches and the lack of enforcement are what we are meant to be investigating,” Kelleher noted.

He argued: “The broader issues of animal transport, and the rights and wrongs of it, are not necessarily within the terms of reference of this committee.”

The MEP highlighted that the focus of the committee – and what it was actually established for – is to examine whether or not the European Commission or member state bodies charged with enforcing animals transport regulations are “doing what they are supposed to”.

There clearly is systemic failures in terms of investigation by competent authorities; and enforcement and prosecution.

“But if we are to decide to change the terms of reference here and to decide that we will make recommendations on animal transport per se, then we should go back and seek different terms of reference… That should be our purpose. The broader issues would need another enquiry, or another committee,” Kelleher argued.

He went on: “Clearly people have varying views on the rights and wrongs of it, but let us not mix up the two [issues].

“We’re obligated here to ensure that if there’s weakness in enforcement; if there’s weakness in protection; if there’s weakness in prosecution, that we make recommendations about that issue, and hold the authorities to account,” Kelleher concluded.