COVID-19: Urgent action is needed to avoid animal welfare crisis during the transport of live animals


COVID-19: Urgent action is needed to avoid animal welfare crisis during the transport of live animals

19 March 2020
Eurogroup for Animals
Press Release
The European Commission insists that the transport of livestock between EU member states must continue, despite the severe problems imposed by the COVID-19 emergency.
Following the publication of the Commission's ‘Guidelines for border management measures’ on 16 March, Eurogroup for Animals - together with 35 animal protection organisations - calls on the EU Commission and Member States to take urgent action to ensure compliance with EU law and to protect the welfare of farmed animals.

Evidence shows that in many cases, the transportation of animals cannot be carried out in compliance with the provisions of Council Regulation 1/2005 (the EU Transport Regulation). Croatia, for example, is not permitting livestock vehicles coming from ‘high-risk zones’ to enter the country, so they are getting caught up in long queues at borders between EU member states and at the exit point between Bulgaria and Turkey. Moreover, high-risk zones are not clearly defined, and are changing from hour to hour.

At Polish borders, there are also long waiting times. There are traffic queues 15-40 km long on the German side of the border, and 40km long at the border between Lithuania and Poland. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that some border crossings in Poland do not enable animal transports to take priority.

Despite the clear requirements laid down in Article 3 and 22(2) of the EU Transport Regulation, transportation of live animals is routinely taking place without ad hoc arrangements to guarantee the welfare and health of the animals transported under this pandemic. Today the Dutch Government issued some restrictions to prevent animal suffering. We believe that all the EU competent authorities should  prohibit a transport when there is a possibility that undue suffering could be caused to the animals.
Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals

In the meanwhile, the EU Commission should also use its enforcing power to ensure an effective flow of information between Chief Veterinary Officers (CVOs) and EU member states National Contact Points (NCPs) so that livestock organisers can avoid such problems. To this end, an EU emergency protocol is needed.

As for the extra-EU transport of live animals, immense queues at the Bulgarian-Turkish border were recorded last week, with drivers of livestock vehicles reporting that it was taking three hours to move 300m. Since last week the situation is likely to have got worse, as Turkey and Bulgaria have now introduced further travel restrictions. As the pandemic means that transport organisers are unlikely to meet the requirement that the Transport Regulation must be complied with all the way to the destination, EU Member States should not approve any exports of live animals to non-EU countries, whether by land or sea.  

In the specific case of COVID-19, there is also a serious risk of further speeding the virus, both within and outside the EU. For drivers and operators transporting live animals, it would be very difficult to comply with the rules of the World Health Organisation, so they could play an important role in further spreading the virus via direct contact with other human beings or contaminated surfaces.

Once again, we are confronted with the limitations of the current system of trading live animals, and we emphasise our call for its replacement with the transport of meat and carcasses, as well as semen and embryos. To reduce the number of consignments and thus the number of people moving across the EU, we call on the Commission to urgently prepare a strategy to shift from live animal transport to a meat and carcasses trade, in line with its reply to the Implementation Report by the European Parliament on live transport.
Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals

Francesca Porta, Farm Animals Programme Officer