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The Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals met this morning to discuss the live transport of animals in the European Union. Live transport within and outside Europe concerns over 1 billion of animals each year and raises significant welfare issues. The Intergroup meeting was held on the International Awareness Day Stop Live Transport, and Intergroup MEPs reiterated their strong commitment to address this concern in the European Parliament.

Dr. Alexander Rabitsch, expert on animal transport and lecturer on animal welfare topics, gave a presentation on the main problems behind the implementation and enforcement of the Transport Regulation both across and outside EU’s borders. Despite the fact that EFSA recommends to keep transport as short as possible, long distance live animal transports have increased during the past years, with negative impacts on the welfare of animals. Dr Rabitsch brought the case of unweaned animals, that given their inability to drink during the journey, often arrive at destination completely dehydrated. Also extreme temperature is a major problem. Even though the Transport Regulation prescribes not to transport animals with temperatures higher than 30°C, this rule remains poorly implemented. Violations to the Transport Regulation occur both across and outside the EU. In 2015 the Court of Justice ruled that the EU Transport Regulation should also apply when animal consignments leave EU. However, this rule still remains disregarded. He ended his presentation by stressing the animal welfare problems related to sea transport.

Dr Rabitsch’s presentation stimulated a lively debate among the MEPs. The Rapporteurs of the Committees involved in the Implementation Report on the protection of animals during transport across and outside Europe, exchanged their views on live transport and the upcoming Report. Jørn Dohrmann MEP, Rapporteur for the AGRI Committee, highlighted that mistreatments of animals during transport are taking place at a large scale in Europe, qualifying the current situation as a scandal. Moreover, he expressed his wish to send a strong political message with this Report. He believes it is time to change the current system by shifting to a trade of meat or carcasses only instead of live animals.

Karin Kadenbach MEP, Rapporteur of the opinion for the ENVI Committee, highlighted that live transport poses severe risks to animal and public health. She stressed that a ‘One Health’ approach is needed to evaluate the real costs of live animal transport and to find new solutions.

Keith Taylor MEP, Rapporteur of the opinion for the TRAN Committee, stressed that the Transport Regulation should apply equally during transport within and outside Europe to preserve animal welfare and also to prevent unfair competition among transporters operating in different countries. He explained his wish to look into the possibilities to use EU funds for the development of local and mobile slaughterhouses in order to avoid lengthy transport. He added that maritime transport is a horrendous story.

Anja Hazekamp MEP spoke on behalf of Àngela Vallina MEP, the Rapporteur in the PETI Committee. She expressed her disappointment that an EP Committee of Inquiry on animal transport was not set-up despite the support of a large number of MEPs. However, she expected the report to give a strong signal to the European institutions and to the Member States. She said:“Actions are needed, that is what citizens expect and this is what the animals deserve.”.

The presentations were followed by a lively debate. John Flack MEP enquired on the pressures on veterinarians to sign the journey log and on the available data about their signatures or potential refusal to sign the document due to animal welfare concerns.

Jan Huitema MEP raised the question of costs and the risk of race to the bottom in regard of transport standards. He pointed to the responsibility of the transport sector and called for a labelling system on transport conditions.

Jacqueline Foster MEP highlighted the financial impact of disease spreading due to transport both for the economy and the agriculture sector. She called for alternatives to live transport.

Pascal Durand MEP explained that the refusal to set-up an Inquiry Committee shows a conflictual situation inside the Parliament when all MEPs should instead be united to end animal suffering. He inquired about the inclusion of the demand for an Inquiry Committee inside the report.

Gabriel Paun, from Animals International, raised questions on the compatibility of a ban of live transport with the WTO rules.

Thomas Waitz MEP expressed his belief that local slaughterhouses should be implemented to avoid long distance transports. This could go the hand in hand with the setting of a maximum journey time of three hours for live animals. He also called on the support of the Intergroup for a budgetary pilot project on mobile slaughterhouses.

Czesław Adam Siekierski MEP, Chair of the AGRI Committee, agreed that animals should be slaughtered closer to their farm. He also mentioned that an Parliamentary Inquiry on live transport could be a follow up action of the current Implementation report.

Sofia Ribeiro MEP, shadow rapporteur of the EPP Group in the AGRI Committee, highlighted the diversity in geographical and climatic situations across Europe, and the need to take this carefully into account, without applying simplistic solutions.

Stefan Eck MEP stressed on the risk of a lack of reaction to the report from the Commission and asked for a back-up plan to make sure that the Commission will take actions.

To see the full recording of the Intergroup meeting, please click here.

To see the Power Point presentation of Dr. Rabitsch and the agenda, please click here.

 

 

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