Germany to tighten up export rules in 2023, sparing countless animals from suffering


Germany to tighten up export rules in 2023, sparing countless animals from suffering

5 November 2022

In what spells as positive news for millions of farm animals, the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture has declared it will restrict the export of various species used for breeding to third countries from Germany.

What are Germany’s new export rules?

From July 1 2023, German veterinary certificates for the export of cattle, sheep and goats used for breeding to several countries outside the EU will be withdrawn, a recent press release from BMEL states.

This is not the first time Germany has tightened up their export rules to support higher animal welfare, having already withdrawn certificates for animals used for fattening and slaughter purposes to third countries. However, by extending these restrictions to breeding animals, too, the country is taking an even stronger stand against the issues of international animal trade and the cruelties that livestock faces in this system: sending a powerful message about the importance of good welfare at every stage of an animal’s life.

Germany has made the first move… now, over to the EU 

Germany has set a compelling precedent at national level… but if we are to address live exports globally, it’s important that the rest of the EU takes the initiative to radically change the rules of this trade.

This is something that Germany’s Federal Minister, Cem Özdemir, understands well. Commenting on their recent decision, he stated “we urgently need better common rules in Europe” to make sure that national restrictions such as theirs “are not circumvented” and undermined. For instance, despite Germany’s new law, suppliers could technically export animals to other countries in the EU to then be re-exported to third countries: taking advantage of a problematic loophole that an EU-wide law could close.

That’s why we at Eurogroup for Animals are campaigning for the EU to ban the transport of live animals outside its borders entirely, and eventually revolutionise the trade to end their live export completely. In the interim, we’re also asking policymakers to devise stricter species-specific requirements for transport as well. 

What do our Members think of Germany’s new export restrictions?

Several of our member organisations have been concerned with the consequences of live animal exports for years. Germany’s news thus comes as a victory, though it’s clear there’s much more to do.

Animals International has worked tirelessly to expose the conditions animals face while being exported outside of Europe - including, specifically, from Germany, with their investigations into German exports tracing back as far as 2017. 

“We want to see the EC listening to the fresh wave that Germany has started, by installing an EU wide ban on live exports,” Director Gabriel Paun states. He adds that despite this, the recent restrictions come as “news worth celebrating” that heeds “the call of millions of compassionate EU citizens who want an end to this cruel and ruthless trade”. 

Deutscher Tierschutzbund has also vocalised their support for this change via Twitter, but are conscious of the further developments that are needed. "This is not about the end of transport, and so we still demand that the German ministry bans exports completely from Germany to countries outside of Europe," states Frigga Wirths, their Specialist for Transport, Slaughter and Cattle.

Four Paws International is of a similar mind, and have campaigned extensively for change within the live animal export trade in Europe. Livestock Expert Ina Mueller-Arnke commented that “the BMEL withdrawing the bilateral veterinary certificates is a good first step, but insufficient, as it is not equivalent to an export ban.” She adds that, to seal lasting change, “we need to prohibit live animal exports at the European level, including to all third countries.”

The Animal Welfare Foundation is strongly against the long-distance transport of animals across Europe, as well as exports from Europe to third countries. Iris Baumgärtner, their Vice Chair, told us “we expect a national export ban of German animals from our Green Minister of Agriculture”, though their most recent restrictions are “the fastest measure to send a clear signal to the EU Commission.” That being said, they’re concerned that this move “will hardly reduce exports. For this reason, we need a national export ban with better enforcement options for the authorities to stop indirect transports.”

Ultimately, the message is clear: while this restriction is a win for several farm animals in Germany, to make it a win for all animals, we need the EU to step up and create EU-wide legislation to seriously improve the export trade. We hope to see it rise to the challenge.

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