Farming News - EC animal transport report met with mixed reactions

EC animal transport report met with mixed reactions

A report by the European Commission on animal transport laws within the EU has recommended no changes be made to existing legislation. The recommendation, which was made late last week, following the commission’s investigation into impact of EU regulation on the protection of animals during transport, has been met with mixed reactions.


live animal exports

Whilst farming unions have welcomed the news, animal welfare groups including the RSPCA have expressed anger and disappointment at the EC’s lack of commitment to addressing their concerns over welfare.


The Commission concluded that the protection of animals during transport has improved since regulation was introduced in January 2007. However, the report identified a number of problems which could hamper further improvement in the transport conditions of animals. The problems were mostly related to enforcement and compliance of current rules. The commission therefore elected to enforce current regulation before it tightened rules.


Each year, millions of animals are transported over long distances around Europe, for further fattening or slaughter. Although farming groups have welcomed the EC decision, with NFU vice president Gwyn Jones commenting, "We believe the current regulations are based on sound science and when enforced do not compromise animal welfare. The Commission’s report says the protection of animals during transport has improved markedly in recent years," animal welfare advocates have condemned it.  


In a release following the announcement, the RSPCA identified several areas where it believes regulation must be tightened; it said, under current rules, animal can still suffer as a result of over-long journey times - sheep and cattle can be legally be transported for 29 hours with just a one hour break on board the lorry, a chronic lack of space and inadequate consideration of temperature - animals can legally be transported in temperatures of up to 35oc.


Both the RSPCA and NFU agreed that not enough is currently being done to ensure compliance with existing regulation across member states; the RSPCA lamented the lack of enforcement, stating, "poor enforcement and insufficient penalties gives little incentive for hauliers to comply with the current legislation." Whilst NFU spokesperson Gwyn Jones said, "the focus of attention should be on better enforcement of current regulations rather than any new regulations."


Julia Wrathall, head of the RSPCA’s farm animal science team, said, "Scientific research has shown that eight hours is the longest time that animals can realistically cope with being transported and we are disappointed the European Commission seems to be ignoring this key issue.


"The current state of play is a catch 22 situation. Enforcement is so poor and penalties are so pitiful there is little incentive for hauliers to stick to the rules, but even if every driver complied with the legislation the RSPCA does not believe the rules go far enough to prevent some animals suffering severely."


The RSPCA, as well as the local council, have objected to live animal transport from Ramsgate, Kent, which it claims has been operating using inappropriate equipment, following damage to a loading ramp at Dover.


The report will now go before the European Parliament. The RSPCA is asking its members to lobby their MEPs to disagree with the Commission's recommendations.