The transport of millions of animals within and outside the EU is currently covered by the EC Regulation No 1/2005 but the outdated and poorly enforced standards fail to ensure the welfare of the transported animals. They are often exposed to thirst, hunger, excessive heat, exhaustion, and the lack of space or rest. Animal transport can also contribute to the spreading of diseases. Members of the Intergroup are committed to raise this issue in the Parliament and to call for solutions.
Gabriel Paun, EU Director of Animals Australia, started his presentation by providing an update on the current crisis of the capsized vessel with 14,600 sheep on board. The cargo overturned shortly after leaving the Midia harbour in Romania towards Saudi Arabia. This ship was approved by Romanian authorities for long-distance transport despite being outdated and not designed for live transport. The reaction to the capsize also demonstrated that, despite the fact that Midia is the busiest harbour for livestock transport, no procedure was in place to manage the crisis.
Romania has been exporting thousands of sheep to the Middle East in extreme temperatures. This summer, 70.000 sheep were sent to the Persian Gulf despite the high temperature and the call from the Commission to stop this shipment. The mortality on these cargos sent to the Middle East is extremely high. On one of the vessels sent to Jordan, 100% of the transported animals died before reaching their destination. This mass transport from Romania towards the Middle East does not respect the EU legislation nor the Court of Justice ruling stating that the EU regulation should also apply to the part of the journey outside the EU.
Maria Boada, Project Manager on animal welfare during long distance transport, from the Tierschutzbund Zürich, then took the floor to discuss the transport of unweaned animals. The production system of milk is inseparably related to unwanted calves and lambs. Most of them are either killed soon after birth or reared for veal or beef. They have very low financial value. Several millions of very young unweaned animals are transported each year over long distances for slaughter or fattening in Europe or abroad. They are too young to be able to process solid food or cold water and would need to be unloaded and fed with milk or milk replacer one by one. The way they are currently transported fail to provide the required quality or method of feeding.
Both the Commission and EFSA recommendations on the transport of unweaned animals are being ignored. The European Commission has been regularly informed about the systematic violations of the Regulation (EC) No 1/2005. A harmonized approach within the EU and a strict enforcement of the Regulation is needed in order to avoid poor welfare during transport of unweaned animals.
The presentations were followed by a lively debate between the members of the European Parliament on the actions the Intergroup could take both in regard of the current crisis in Romania and to solve the broader live transport issue. They discussed the setting up of an EP Committee of inquiry, that was one of the requests of the implementation report on the protection of animals during transport within and outside the EU and which was adopted at the end of last term. Moreover, they enquired about the economic model that allows such transport to continue.
More information and the livestream recording of the meeting can be found here.