Slow Food: EU Commission proposal on animal transport has a bittersweet taste

Today the European Commission released a proposal to revise EU rules on the protection of animals during transport, a step forward in decreasing animal suffering and increasing health standards. 

Every year, millions of live animals are transported within and outside European Union territory, in journeys that can take up to weeks, under despicable conditions. Animal transport occurs for transporting animals for slaughter, for breeding purposes, from one farm to another, for fattening, etc., and it is often the result of the high specialisation of production cycles: for example, a region is specialised in breeding, another one in fattening, and another one in slaughtering and processing. In other cases, the reason is trade: on the market animals are expected to be sold alive.

The welcomed text includes a number of pertinent changes, such as the reduction of journey times of live-animal transport to distant slaughterhouses and keeping long journeys to a maximum of 9 hours. For breeding, fattening, and other purposes, the journeys should not be longer than 21 hours. These hours exclude time spent on sea vessels – a point of contention. Other aspects include the increase of space in transport vehicles and limits to the transport of the most vulnerable, such as unweaned animals. Increased and simplified traceability of the vehicles is also part of the proposal. Regrettably, no ban on live animal exports is envisaged in this revision. In terms of next steps, it is now the turn of the EU Council and the Parliament – likely post-2024 election – to adopt their positions.  

“The question that remains is where is the rest of the animal welfare package promised under the Farm to Fork Strategy published in 2020?” asks Madeleine Coste, Advocacy Director at Slow Food. “The revision was supposed to be a comprehensive proposal that would tackle the interrelated issues of climate change, health, rural development and social and economic justice. The European Commission has let down citizens hoping for animal rights.” In fact, the concerns of more than 1.5 million citizens and 170 organisations, including Slow Food, that supported the European Citizens’ Initiative End the Cage Age calling for an end to the use of cages, went unheard. 

The other 3 pillars of the proposal, welfare at farm-level and at end-of-life, as well as a voluntary European label for animal welfare, have all been set aside. This proposed revision has a bittersweet taste and poses as a gimmick to keep NGOs content – until the next mandate. The resentment also comes from discerning the power of the livestock industry, as shown by recent worrying investigations on the issue. Slow Food hopes that improving the well-being of animals in our food chains will remain a priority, in order to work for the betterment of food systems’ sustainability as a whole. Keep in mind, EU rules on animal welfare have not been changed in the last two decades.

To read more, see Slow Food’s policy brief on animal welfare in the EU  

  • Did you learn something new from this page?
  • yesno