Slow Food: “The European Parliament’s Vote on Live Transport Denies Animal Suffering”

Yesterday an important session on animal transport was held at the European Parliament, which Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety opened and closed by reminding Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) that animal welfare is a priority within the Farm to Fork strategy, as well as for her personally and her mandate.

Unfortunately, yesterday’s vote from the Parliament goes in the opposite direction, in fact watering down the already weak text that came out in December from the Committee of Inquiry of the European Parliament on the transport of live animals.

We had hoped that the European Parliament would be more ambitious than the ANIT report and take seriously the views of citizens by banning all long-distance transport, and refining, replacing and reducing intra-EU transport. The European Parliament’s vote is lacking ambition and denying the appalling conditions in which animals are transported in Europe,” says Yael Pantzer, policy officer at Slow Food Europe.   

Every year, millions of live animals are transported within and outside European Union territory, for slaughter, for breeding purposes, from one farm to another, for fattening, etc.  On most cases, it is due to the current high specialisation of production cycles: for example, a region is specialized in breeding, another one in fattening, and another one in slaughtering and processing. Another reason is trade: the market expects animals to be sold alive.  

Inevitably, every journey causes sufferance. The main concerns relating to live animal transport pertains to: stress (animals are sentient beings, and are not used to be moved on vehicles), overcrowding (animals are normally crammed in small spaces for the travels), exhaustion and dehydration (especially in the hottest summer months); unexpected situation can cause a prolongment of the trip, incidents can occur where animals lose their lives. In addition, live animal transport favours the spread of diseases. 

Despite the European Parliament now calling for a maximum travel time of 8 hours by road, nothing was said about animals transported by sea. The European Parliament also rejected amendments that would have banned the transport of pregnant animals at 40 percent gestation, while the call for a ban on the transport of very young animals (cattle, sheep, goats or pigs, and domestic horses) less than 35 days old disappeared. The 4-week limit to allow transport remains only for calves. 

The European Commission (EC) must revise the Transport Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005) and will do so “on the basis of the latest scientific evidence, creating a European database for official controls and verification of cargo ships transporting animals in the Member States”, as well as ensuring the implementation of existing rules. Thus, a new legislative proposal is expected in the fall of 2023, while implementing acts related to maritime transport controls (under the provisions of the existing law) must also be ready by the end of this year.   

In recent weeks, some members of the European Parliament have repeatedly voiced their hope that the European Commission does not delay action any longer and ends the suffering of millions of animals, a reality that has been highlighted in the conclusions of the committee of inquiry.  

Yesterday, the Plenary missed the opportunity to strengthen the text approved by the ANIT Commission of Inquiry.  

As Slow Food we believe that The EU must commit to drastically limiting live-animal transport to distant slaughterhouses and long journeys by supporting the availability of facilities in the proximity of farms and by strengthening staff skills and competencies and by simplifying paper-based procedures and structural requirements. Well-managed mobile slaughterhouses and on-farm slaughter should be developed as they considerably improve EU animal welfare standards and avoid long journeys to slaughterhouses. An immediate result would be the strengthening local food systems in a way that they become more resilient; farmers would be more connected to their territories and consumers more aware of where their meat comes from. 

Now our hopes are placed in the European Commission, to which we entrust the task of allowing the replacement of live animal transport with a trade in meat, carcasses and genetic material only.  

For more information on animal welfare policy in the European Union, and Slow Food’s recommendations, have a look at our latest policy brief here 

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