Each year, millions of live animals are transported by road, sea, rail and air within and outside the EU for slaughter, fattening or breeding. Their wellbeing during these journeys should be ensured by special EU rules, in force from 2005; however, this has turned out not to be the case.
Parliament's inquiry, set up in June 2020 to investigate alleged violations of EU animal transport rules, concluded that EU provisions in this area are not always complied with in member states and do not fully take into account the different needs of animals. The most obvious violations include lack of headroom, water or food supply for transported animals, animals being shipped when they are unfit for transport, and overcrowding. Inappropriate vehicles are used, and transport sometimes take place under extreme temperatures and extended journey times.
To remedy the situation, MEPs adopted recommendations on Thursday with 557 votes to 55 and 78 abstentions. They call on the Commission and EU countries to step up their efforts to respect animal welfare during transport, update EU rules and appoint an EU commissioner responsible for animal welfare.
Restricting journey time and ensuring adequate comfort
Journey time for domestic animals going to slaughter should not exceed eight hours, MEPs demand and pregnant animals in the last third of gestation should not be transported for more than four hours. Unweaned calves aged less than four weeks should also not be transported, they say, except by farmers and over a distance shorter than 50 km.
MEPs want CCTV cameras on transport vehicles, especially for loading and unloading. National authorities should only approve animal travel plans if the temperature is forecast to be between 5ºC and 30ºC. Temperature, humidity and ammonia levels in vehicles should be recorded, MEPs add.
Put a break on live animal export
There is no control system in place, MEPs criticise, to transport animals to non-EU countries. They demand member states inspect all consignments to non-EU countries, to ensure that animals are fed and hydrated, that drinking devices function properly, and that they have enough space and headroom. Live animal export should be approved only if it complies with European animal welfare standards.
Transport meat over live animals
MEPs advocate a transition to a more efficient and ethical system that favours the transport of semen or embryos over breeding stock, and carcasses and meat over animals being moved for slaughter. They call on the Commission to urgently present, no later than 2023, an action plan to support this transition, including a proposal on a specific fund to minimise the socio-economic impacts of the changes that need to be made.
EP rapporteur Daniel Buda (EPP, RO) said: "Animal welfare during transport is non-negotiable and must be respected until the animals reach their final destination. The transport of live animals must continue, both in member states and in third countries, while respecting the highest standards of animal welfare. It is important for the EU's economy and for the financial survival of our farmers."
Co-rapporteur Isabel Carvalhais (S&D, PT) added: "Animal welfare is a flagship issue of this institution. The transport of live animals is an inseparable part of animal welfare in the EU, which we evaluated in depth and with great commitment in this Committee of Inquiry. We need to invest in more and better solutions to reduce the need to transport live animals. We must keep in mind, however, the social dimension of what we are proposing and how this will affect people."