New review on live animal transport echoes our call for change in the industry


New review on live animal transport echoes our call for change in the industry

18 April 2023

We were pleased with the conclusions drawn in the “Transport of live animals in the EU: challenges and opportunities’’ review produced by the European Court of Auditors. Published on April 17, it re-emphasises the need for a serious revision of the Live Animals Transport Regulation - a bold move for animal welfare that we have been campaigning for for years.

The review recognises many problems involved in long-distance transport, and presents some important proposals for addressing them.

It highlights that reducing the number and length of journeys, improving the conditions for live animals during transport, and finding alternatives to transporting them could mitigate the negative impacts of this practice - of which there are many.

What is more, the report recognises that the Regulation is not implemented in the same way by all Member States, resulting in some industry players being able to exploit the different systems enabled by national sanctions.

In addition, the report acknowledges that the quality of animal welfare during transport is not considered in the cost of transport/price of meat - and neither is the environment. The review points out that there is a contradiction between the Green Deal’s call for a transition to a more sustainable food system and the increased amount of live animals that are transported, and further cites studies that show that transporting meat and carcasses is more sustainable than transporting live animals.

Horrible for animal welfare and economically and environmentally worse than the alternatives on offer, it’s clear that live animal transport does not belong in the future of farming in the EU.

Another critical aspect the report addresses is the need for more reliable data on live animal transport. The tracking systems that are currently available do not provide an accurate read on the number and condition of animals transported into, and especially outside of, the EU. In 2018, the Commission estimated that TRACES recorded only 31.6% of cattle and 3.5% of sheep exported by livestock vessels from Croatia, Slovenia, Spain, France, Ireland, Portugal, and Romania combined. With no insight into what’s happening on these long journeys across Europe, who knows what these poor sentient beings are going through?

So far, decisions in the live animal transport industry have mostly been made based on consumer preferences and economic factors. Based on the review’s findings, and with the European Commission soon to revise its animal welfare and transport rules, the European Court of Auditors urges that they instead focus on: 

  • Promoting the transport of meat rather than live animals, as well as the use of local and mobile slaughterhouses - to reduce the suffering of animals and their time spent travelling
  • Increasing transparency and harmonisation in meat labelling - for example, through an EU animal welfare labelling system, so consumers can make more considered buying choices and are aware of where their animal products have come from
  • Harnessing the latest technologies to track all animal journeys - so the EU really knows what’s happening while animals are on the move, and can take clearer steps to protect them.

The report adds to the pile of evidence and conclusions shared in the last couple of years from the ANIT Committee, EFSA, the fitness check of the European Commission and several investigations by animal NGOs that demonstrate live animal transport is causing tremendous suffering to animals. It should give the final push to the Commission to propose a revised Transport Regulation that doesn’t allow for animals to be transported beyond eight hours (or four hours for poultry and rabbits), prohibits the transport of vulnerable animals (like unweaned calves) and bans live exports. We believe no more evidence should be needed for the Commission to make these decisions once and for all.

Learn more about our views on live animal transport in our 2021 white paper.