The European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, spoke with agriculture ministers about the horrors happening when European animals are transported at sea.
On Monday, she presented the outcome of the Commission’s evaluation of the 2012-2015 EU Animal Welfare Strategy. While she listed some improvements, she also said “we are very much aware that we need to do more” when it comes to animal welfare in Europe.
The evaluation mentioned ongoing problems in areas like the practice of removing pig’s tails in farming and the transport of live animals over long journeys.
“Especially after the deplorable events we all recently witnessed in the Mediterranean sea with the two livestock vessels [Elbeik and Karim Allah],” Kyriakides said, “I would like to stress that this [transport of live animals at sea] is an area I am focusing very closely in order to explore short and medium term actions.”
“We must do everything in our power to avoid a repetition in the future of such crises,” she added.
Kyriakides stressed that agriculture ministers should step up efforts to make sure that animal welfare regulations are followed while transporting animals.
The uneven level of protection across countries is an ongoing problem, she said. “This is particularly true of third countries, which often do not have animal welfare standards comparable to those in the EU,” she added.
Most ships with European animals leave from Spain and Romania to countries in the Middle East and North-Africa where animal welfare rules differ from Europe.
The EU is responsible for the welfare of the cows, sheep and goats that leave Europe till they arrive at their destination, but once vessels leave Europe, there’s no accurate system in place to check their well-being. For that reason, New Zealand announced a ban on live animal transport by sea.
“The fact is that once animals leave New Zealand by sea, we have very limited ability to ensure their well-being before they reach their destination,” New Zealand’s agriculture minister Damien O’Connor said when the ban was announced.
Eighteen international political parties have urged the European Commission to follow New Zealand’s lead and also ban live animal export. It’s not known if a ban is one of the short or medium term actions Kyriakides mentioned.