Live animal exports might be banned in Brazil - setting the scene for the kind of change we want to see in Europe


Live animal exports might be banned in Brazil - setting the scene for the kind of change we want to see in Europe

9 May 2023

A trial court in Brazil recently ruled to ban live exports, following a number of NGOs filing lawsuits against the practice based on the harm it causes to farm animals. While the decision is not yet final, this is the kind of bold move we need to see European policymakers make against live animal transport in the EU - a system within which millions of poor sentient beings suffer physically, mentally and emotionally each year.

Animals are not things. They are sentient living beings, that is, individuals who feel hunger, thirst, pain, cold, anguish, fear.

Djalma Gomes, federal judge (source).

On April 25, a potentially historic ruling was made by a trial court in Brazil to end live animal exports. This decision was made following the tireless efforts of several NGOs who, since 2017, have been campaigning to end all live animal exports from Brazil after NADA, the largest live cargo transport ship in the country, came under scrutiny for its extremely poor animal welfare conditions.

Brazil’s call for a ban should inspire the EU to look at its own Transport Regulation more closely

While this ruling will not be final until it is reviewed by a higher court (Brazil’s Third Regional Federal Court) - a process which could take years - it’s an extremely promising first step towards changing the country’s live animal export industry in a truly effective way, mirroring a recent move by New Zealand to ban live exports by sea.

Both bans also send a strong message to the rest of the world, that we hope European policymakers take note of: that the live animal export sector is filled with serious affronts to animal welfare, and needs to be addressed at a dramatic scale. Farm animals often suffer hugely on long journeys, whether travelling via land or sea, including by being:

  • Starved and dehydrated - as they often travel for several hours without being given food or water
  • Exhausted - due to the strain these journeys put on them, and the impossibility to relax. A WELFARM investigation found animals being transported from Poland to the Franco-German border were kept in their trucks for 20 hours with no breaks
  • Subjected to overheating - especially when they are being transported in the summer, when temperatures soar
  • Crammed together - which can cause injuries and further stress to these animals as they are transported, a process which is already entirely unnatural to them.

Not only do these sentient beings suffer immensely on these journeys, but the rules that are already in place to protect them through the EU’s Transport Regulation are not even being adequately enforced. Over Easter this year, our member Essere Animali together with the Italian police stopped seven trucks transporting lambs arriving from Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. Six of these were violating the EU’s transport rules, including by overcrowding the trucks, overlooking injuries to the animals and more. 

Much firmer rules and restrictions: how should Europe’s live animal transport sector be addressed?

In 2019, over 1.6 billion farmed animals were transported alive across the EU and to non-European countries. It’s clear the European Commission’s Transport Regulation needs a serious overhaul if it is to effectively improve the lives of farm animals across Europe, as our extensive white paper on the subject explores in more detail. 

Beyond creating much stricter rules for animals transported between EU countries, however, it’s important that policymakers also consider taking similar steps to Brazil and New Zealand by enacting a full ban on live animal exports to countries outside of Europe’s borders. When animals are transported to third countries, it’s much easier for the EU’s transport rules to go unfollowed. Banning live exports to non-European countries entirely would be the only way to ensure the EU’s high animal welfare standards are not being undermined elsewhere in the world.

Ideally, international instruments for animal welfare will also be developed in future to ensure that animals are protected globally, by strong and enforced regulations that have their welfare at their heart. But Europe can already inspire great change in this area - and improve the lives of billions of European farm animals - by making powerful revisions to animal legislation that prioritise their essential needs and comfort. More insights into animal welfare during transport can be obtained in our 2022 position paper.

We have our fingers crossed that change is ahead

The live animal transport sector has always been notoriously difficult to monitor, as well as one in which the welfare of animals has been easily cast aside. We’re impressed with Brazil’s recent ruling, and hope it inspires policymakers both in Europe and the rest of the world to give the sector the kind of attention it deserves. If it does, the future will look a lot brighter for billions of farm animals.