European Union: animal transport under scrutiny

Status: 01/16/2022 06:30 a.m

The EU animal protection rules for transport are considered to be one of the highest standards in the world, but they are often not complied with. An EU investigative committee recommends changes – which are not well received everywhere.

By Tobias Dammers, ARD Studio Brussels

Around 60 dairy cows arrived at the farm of livestock transporter Markus Krümpel in Wettringen during the night, and the next morning they are to be driven around 50 kilometers further to the Netherlands. That’s where Krümpel drives most of the transports, but also to Poland, Italy or Spain – to many EU countries. That’s why, according to Krümpel, a vet visits him almost every day to check on him. “Animal welfare is important,” says Krümpel, “that’s what every customer demands these days.”

His vehicles are equipped with GPS trackers and sensors, the drivers are carefully trained, and rest times are respected, says Krümpel. On his journeys, however, he also sees that animal welfare rules are not controlled as well throughout the EU as they are in Germany. Although the same EU regulation has been in force everywhere since 2007.

Animal transports are met with protests in many places in the EU – now the European Parliament is pushing for the regulations to be tightened again.

Bild: picture alliance/dpa

Committee of Inquiry recognizes deficiencies

A multi-party EU investigative committee has been investigating alleged breaches of the rules for 18 months now. The result: According to the committee, the EU animal welfare rules are among the highest standards in the world, but they are not always observed.

Because animal rights activists like Iris Baumgärtner from the Animal Welfare Foundation have been documenting systematic violations of the law for years. These include, among other things, long journey times, animals that are transported in unsuitable ships or trucks, are injured on the way or are not sufficiently watered.

Fewer live transports, more controls

In the longer term, the EU Committee recommends a transition from the transport of live animals to the transport of slaughter products and semen. “Wherever that’s feasible, gladly,” says Heinz Osterloh from the German cattle and meat trade association. But that is not foreseeable, because living, female genetics are necessary for successful breeding.

In a more concrete step, the committee members call on the EU Commission to have compliance with animal welfare rules checked more systematically by the member states, to establish a prescribed minimum number of controls and to introduce a uniform sanctions system. Animal transporters should be equipped with cameras – in particular to document loading and unloading processes.

Animal rights activist Iris Baumgärtner does not consider this measure to be expedient because the authorities responsible for controls, such as the veterinary offices, “are already overburdened today”. She also criticizes that, despite the clear naming of problems, some demands are not reflected in the recommendations – such as a general limitation of all road transports of animals to eight hours.

Penned up and on the road for a long time: Animal transports of this kind should actually no longer exist in the EU.

Bild: Animal Welfare Foundation e.V.

No control system for exports to third countries

The Committee’s criticism of animal exports to countries outside the EU is particularly harsh. According to the parliamentarians, “there is currently no control system in place” to check these exports. According to a European court ruling, these exports may only take place if it is ensured that the EU animal transport regulation is also observed on the way and in the destination countries.

Although exports only account for a small proportion of EU animal transports, over 236 million animals were transported outside of Europe in 2019 – mostly poultry. Cattle, pigs and goats were exported in particular to Libya, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Turkey.

However, recordings by animal protection organizations show serious violations of European animal protection law, especially in some of these countries. Together with Luxembourg and the Netherlands, Germany called for a ban on live animal exports to third countries last year.

Calf transport after five weeks

But there are also disputes within the EU about which animals may be transported under which conditions – especially young animals. Animal rights activists consider animals that are a few days old to be unfit for transport, but for farmers the costs and effort increase if the animals stay in the barn for longer.

According to the current EU regulation, for example, calves can be transported over longer distances 14 days after their birth. The EU committee now recommends only allowing the transport of very young animals from the age of 35 days. Heinz Osterloh from the German Association of Livestock and Meat Traders calls this a “stupid suggestion” because it is not scientifically sound.

However: The federal government also considers a transport two weeks after the birth to be too early. She has tightened the EU rules independently: in this country, calves will soon only be allowed to be transported from the age of 28 days.

Commission wants new rules by the end of 2023

The European Parliament must now vote on the recommendations of the committee of inquiry. A change to the current regulation is in sight: The EU Commission has announced that the animal protection laws for transport will be revised by the end of 2023.

The Europamagazin also provides information on European topics – on Sunday at 12.15 p.m. in the first.

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