EU Committee resumes debate on live animal transport

Baby cows close together on the ship one lying the rest standing in dirt
Male calves have been cramped on the ship Karim Allah, photo: Talia Shipping Line / Reuters

New rules on the ways pigs, cows, sheep and other animals used for food are transported by road, sea and air were discussed Monday as the EU committee of inquiry on animal transport (ANIT) resumed work.

The committee was assembled last year to investigate multiple reports of animals suffering during road and sea journeys.

Animal welfare activists have long called for a limit to the length of time animals can spend in transport, suggesting, for example, an eight-hour maximum travel time or a ban on exporting live animals.

Currently, many animals, especially those being exported, can spend days or weeks in trucks and ships on their way to slaughter.

The talks on Monday were focused on the committee’s draft recommendations and two sets of almost 600 amendments. Although ANIT’s draft recommendations make no mention of a ban, several are suggested in the amendments.

These include a ban on the export of live animals from the EU, a ban on transporting suckling animals still reliant on their mother’s milk and a ban on transporting heavily pregnant animals.

A ban on transporting animals for slaughter that does not involve stunning, often known as ritual slaughter, is also mentioned.

A ban on the use of multistorey livestock trucks, which are difficult to inspect and risk poor air circulation and cramped conditions for animals, is another proposal in the amendments.

In the coming months, ANIT will debate on the draft recommendations. By December, the committee is expected to have its final recommendations ready for a vote.

If the recommendations are approved by a majority, they could then be voted on by the EU Parliament during what is known as a plenary session, possibly in January 2022. After that, the recommendations could become law.

Animals suffer during transport
The ANIT committee began work last year, after the European Parliament voted to establish an inquiry into the transport of live animals within the EU, and from the EU to other countries.

One of ANIT’s tasks has been to investigate whether the European Commission failed to act upon evidence of “serious and systematic” violations of EU regulations meant to protect live animals in transport.

Over the years leading up to the ANIT committee launch, animal welfare organizations have reported multiple incidents of animal suffering during transport.

These include unweaned calves from Ireland being mistreated at feeding stations in France, the suffering of unweaned animals that cannot be fed on long journeys and incidences of animals overheating or freezing on trucks.

The problems of transporting live animals for food were again thrown into the spotlight earlier this year when almost 3,000 young cows were killed after they spent close to three months at sea on two livestock ships, the Karim Allah and Elbeik.

“The EU exports over 229 million live animals every year. In terrible conditions. And what happens in trucks can only be checked until the EU border. What happens at sea, nobody wants to know,” Tilly Metz, Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and chairwoman of ANIT, said.

Last year, The Guardian found that the global live animal transport and export business had more than quadrupled in size over the past 50 years. The trade is worth an estimated $3.3 billon (€2.8 billion) in Europe.

Analysis of data provided by the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation earlier this year indicated that the EU is the world’s biggest live animal exporter, responsible for up to 80% of the global trade in live farm animals.

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