Structural Breaches of Regulation 1/2005 on the Transportation of Unweaned Calves

19 Dec 2021
Approximately 1.4 million unweaned calves are transported between the Member States of the European Union each year. Regulation (EC) No 1/2005, states that calves may be transported for up to eight hours from the age of 10 days and for more than eight hours from 14 days. Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor for Compassion in World Farming, and Founder of Ethical Farming Ireland, Caroline Rowley warned the Intergroup last week of the stress and danger this causes these young animals.

The Intergroup session focused on the experience of unweaned calves, particularly looking at the unweaned calf trade in the EU as well as video footage of calf exports from Ireland. This was MEP Anja Hazekamp’s final session as chair for the Intergroup. Her presidency covered the first half of the parliamentary term, and she has done excellent work covering sessions from the use of animals in science, to wildlife, to the future of on-farm animal welfare. 

Mr Stevenson kicked off the meeting with a presentation covering some thought-provoking statistics, for example Ireland exported 51,700 unweaned calves to Italy and Spain in 2020. The duration of travel that many of these unweaned calves undergo can be from 21 to 43 hours depending on where in the EU they are travelling from and to.

Regulation 1/2005 states that unweaned calves may travel for longer than 8 hours, provided after 9 hours they are given “a rest period of at least one hour sufficient in particular for them to be given liquid and if necessary fed”. Unfortunately this provision is too often breached and unweaned calves are being transported for up to 22 hours without a rest period. 

Ms Rowley presented the Intergroup with the situation in Ireland, covering the issues that occur transporting unweaned calves from an island. Ireland has been structurally breaching Regulation 1/2005 for years. For example, the Irish authorities approve transport of calves that are unable to be fed as there are no rubber teats or water dispensers available from the point at which they depart the harbour. When abolishing the milk quota in 2015, Ireland did not consider the outcome for the dairy calves. According to Ms Rowley, despite Ireland trying to present themselves as a good example for the transportation of animals, it is not the case. 

Disappointed with the situation within the EU for unweaned calves, multiple MEPs intervened. Discussions concerning what is needed to transition to another model ensued, for example a strategy plan from the Commission that could lead to far reaching reform. MEP Hazekamp reminded stakeholders that the public consultation on the revision of animal welfare legislation is open for feedback until 21 January 2022, and it provides a prime opportunity for the European Commission to really listen to citizens' expectations concerning the welfare of animals, including the transportation of unweaned and all animals. 

Before the session came to a close, the Intergroup saw the appointment of the new President for the second half of the term, MEP Tilly Metz (The Greens, LU). Metz shared that she greatly appreciated the collaboration and cooperation of all members of the Intergroup no matter what political colour, stating that all victories for animal welfare are common victories. The appointment of Tilly Metz received a lot of support from attending MEPs and the next Intergroup session will take place in the new year on 20 January.