New rules on transport by sea are ignoring the problem
Last week the European Commission introduced new rules on transport by sea. While civil society and European citizens are expecting to see a real change in this area, the new rules only scratch the surface of the problems it faces. In light of the forthcoming revision of the Transport Regulation, more could, and should, be done.
On 17 February 2023, The European Commission (EC) adopted an implementing and a delegated act intended to facilitate the inspections and official controls on livestock vessels.
More specifically, the acts impose rules on the recording, storing and sharing of records of official controls, on contingency plans in the event of emergencies, on the approval of vessels, and on minimum requirements applicable to exit points for the transport of animals by sea.
The new provisions appear to primarily address administrative gaps. As such, they will have limited impact on better protecting animals during typically long and challenging sea journeys.
The creation of a new electronic database to be shared among all Member States will enable the sharing of information on ship conditions and on the official controls. While, in principle, this could be a positive development, such a database is a toothless instrument when it comes to transports to destinations outside the EU, of which no mention is made.
The new rules stipulate that vessels must be inspected by a team of experts (an official veterinarian and a maritime expert), but there’s no mention of an increase in the thoroughness of the inspections. Let us not forget that only 6% of 78 EU-approved livestock vessels were purpose-built to transport animals, and in the period 2019-2020 alone, no less than 2,504 deficiencies were found.
Another novelty is that an official veterinarian must be present during the first trip of an approved vessel. Given the duration and risks associated with such journeys, an official veterinarian should be present on all journeys and at all stages of the journey.
While it’s good that minimum requirements for control posts at the seaport exit points are established if an additional part of the trip is planned by road, the controls during arrival, unloading, and other transportation phases after arrival remain uncovered.
The Transport Regulation is currently being revised by the EC and we expect a new proposal by the end of the year. This new proposal should take into account:
- The recommendations of the Committee of inquiry on animal transport (ANIT)
- EFSA’s latest scientific opinion on the welfare of animals during transport
- The European citizens’ demands on live transport, clearly mirrored in several public campaigns like Stop the Trucks and No Animal Left Behind
Eurogroup for Animals and its more than eighty members have been clearly asking to:
- Prohibit the transport of live animals to third countries/territories (outside of the EEA)
- Set out species-specific reduced maximum journey times
- Prohibit the transport of day-old chicks and unweaned calves under 12 weeks of age
- Transport times to ‘start’ from the moment of loading, and to end from the moment of ‘unloading’.
Back in July 2022, 13 Member States called for an ambitious revision of the Transport Regulation including maximum journey times as well as a shift to a meat and carcass trade. There is resistance from other Member States which would like to keep this cruel practice as it currently is, specifically on live export. However, we call on Commissioner Kyriakides to stand by her statement: “Doing nothing is not an option. Change is necessary because animal welfare is a key component of our sustainable food production system”.
“Live animal exports will never be able to meet animal welfare needs, considering that journeys can last several days, or even months. The only way to truly assure animal welfare is to ban this practice. With the current revision of the animal welfare legislation, the EC has the real opportunity to change the lives of millions of animals. The Transport Regulation needs to be thoroughly revised and we trust these two acts won’t stop the momentum for real change. Maximum journey times and a ban on live export are at the core of the needed change." - Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals.