Animal transport proposal fails to make significant improvements for animal welfare

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Animal transport proposal fails to make significant improvements for animal welfare

11 December 2023
Press Release
The long overdue proposal on animal transport is far from enough to protect the billions of animals transported each year, and fails to acknowledge several EFSA opinions on critical issues, presenting a missed opportunity by the European Commission (EC) to improve animal welfare.

Most notably, the proposal still allows for animals to be transported live to non-EU countries, on very long journeys, in which they are unable to benefit from the legal protection they receive in the EU. It is also deeply concerning that the proposed regulation allows for animals to be transported at sea, with no time limit, as, shockingly, sea journeys are exempted from any restriction on this. 

The text does not provide sufficient protection for vulnerable animals such as pregnant ones and unweaned calves. These animals are still going to be transported when they are in very vulnerable states such as late pregnancies, or too young to be able to find food for themselves, or endure incredibly stressful situations like long journeys.

The text does not provide for adequate measures to protect animals in extreme temperatures and humidities, nor does it provide measures on actions required in the case of disruptions. 

Another concern is that many animals are excluded from the new measures, including animals transported for scientific purposes, companion animals and aquatic ones, all of which should have legislation specific to their needs.

The proposal does have some positive aspects, notably, a commitment for real-time traceability for road journey times, updated space allowance and maximum journeys to up to nine hours, however this time limit only applies to animals being transported to slaughter. Animals transported for breeding and fattening can be transported for 42 hours over three days, a limit which is excessive and inconsistent with EFSA’s opinions. Moreover, ships flying “black flags” (severely sub-standard), which at the moment constitute 55% of the EU-approved livestock transport fleet, would no longer be allowed to operate. 

For the first time, the EC made reference to the transition to meat and carcasses, in the objectives of the Regulation. This is particularly timely, following a recent report which shows that switching to this type of export, as opposed to live transport, would not only benefit the animals, but could save up to 2.5 times the costs, and reduce environmental externalities.

Despite its commitment to come forward with a full set of regulations to improve animal welfare by the end of this year, the EC has now failed to publish the three other legislative proposals, most notably the Kept Animals Regulation (KAR), through which the phase out of cages was promised. 

Only updating the live transport rules, and publishing the new proposal on cats and dogs, leaves billions of animals at the mercy of outdated legislation, while it ignores the ask of millions of European citizens for better animal welfare.

This proposal comes only one week after the publication of a report that highlights how official records on live transport are often masked, and the suffering endured by billions of animals each year is much worse than imagined.

It is concerning that after such a long wait the European Commission comes forward with only one of the promised proposals, and one that lacks ambition and fails to protect the welfare of animals during transport, despite the ever-growing evidence of the immense suffering that they endure. The proposal evidently embraces a “business as usual approach” favouring economic benefits over the welfare of the animals. It is now time for the Council and the Parliament to truly reflect the wishes of EU citizens in the legislation.

Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals

Read the full proposal here.

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