How to end cruel animal transports: the Greens/EFA’s fight for animal welfare

Every day, thousands of animals are transported in horrific conditions across the European Union and beyond for breeding, fattening or slaughter. Journeys can last days, and animals can often suffer from a lack of space, clean water or proper food. In the European Parliament’s Animal Transport Committee (ANIT), the Greens/EFA are fighting for an end to these cruel practices. Negotiations on the Committee’s report are now coming to an end.

The Animal Transport Committee started its work in September 2020. The Greens/EFA Group gained two particularly prominent roles: Tilly Metz MEP is the President and Thomas Waitz MEP is our shadow rapporteur at the heart of the negotiations and Caroline Roose coordinated the group on the subject. For the past months, the committee has been working on a report and recommendations to the European Commission. This will be the basis for a new animal transport regulation for the EU. 

To better protect animals, our most important goals are:

  • A ban on the transport of unweaned animals
  • A time limit of 8 hours for transporting live animals regardless of the mode of transport
  • Better conditions for the transport of live animals at sea

How are the Greens/EFA fighting to protect animals being transported in the EU?

On 2nd December, the ANIT Committee will vote on a report and its recommendations for a new EU Animal Transport Regulation. This will set out mandatory new rules for transporting animals in the EU, including laying out specific standards for animal welfare. The European Commission has announced that it will publish its proposal for the new regulation in 2023, so this is a crucial opportunity for the European Parliament to set out what improvements it expects to see in the new law.

Our Greens/EFA members in the ANIT committee have been working hard to strengthen the wording on animal welfare in the report. As our shadow rapporteur, Thomas Waitz MEP represented the Greens/EFA’s position on animal transport during the negotiations between the different political groups. His goal was to find an agreement that would ensure the highest possible animal welfare standards. There were well over a thousand amendments from MEPs across the political spectrum. Negotiations to find compromises that everyone could agree on have been fierce, and are now coming to an end.

Should young animals that are still not weaned be transported?

Young animals that are still dependent on the milk of their mother, so-called ‘unweaned animals’, are definitely not fit for transport. This is one of the main lessons stressed by experts during the ANIT Committee. Unweaned animals, especially in the first few weeks of their life, have not yet developed the immune system required to withstand cruel transport conditions. There is also a question of access to food, as it is still technically impossible to feed unweaned animals during transport.

Current legislation, however, allows the transport of animals that are only 10 days old. It even allows long distance transport from 14 days old (in the case of calves, this means being in transit for a maximum of 19 hours). 

We demand a ban on commercial transport for unweaned animals. During negotiations in the ANIT Committee, we faced a lot of resistance on this from members of conservative, liberal and far right parties who fear financial losses for big industrial farms.

How can we improve conditions for transporting live animals at sea?

According to current animal transport legislation, there is no maximum journey time for animals transported by sea. Sea journeys can last for days or even months without breaching EU legislation. This happened several times in 2021 alone for instance in the cases of the ships Karim Allah and Elbeik or during the blockage of the Suez Canal. The conditions on ships are often awful for those animals. Thousands of animals are crammed on board without proper food and water. There is also no requirement to have a vet on board to treat sick animals. 

We demand that the time limit for live animal transports must apply to all journeys regardless of the mode of transport. In addition, we demand that there has to be at least one veterinarian present during all sea journeys.

What should the maximum journey time for transporting live animals be?

There are two types of animal transport by road: short distance with a maximum of 8 hours’ transport time, and long distance transport. For long distances, there are specific regulations for different types of animals. For some, like pigs or chickens, the journey can last up to 24 hours. For others, like fish, pets or mink, there is no time limit at all. 

We demand clear species and age-specific journey time limits for transporting animals. There should be a maximum journey time of 8 hours regardless of the means of transport. 

What are the next steps towards a new European Animal Transport law?

During the negotiations the Greens/EFA managed to improve some of the wording of the final report and recommendations to the Commission. Unfortunately, the other groups still were not willing to join us in our call for maximum journey times. On 2nd December, the ANIT Committee will vote on the report and recommendations to the European Commission. In January 2022, the European Parliament will vote on the recommendations in plenary. 

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