EU fails to end animal suffering, animal welfare organizations say

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

Animal welfare groups said the European Parliament has failed to make a significant difference in ending the suffering of animals by not choosing to ban live animal transport by sea and the transport of pregnant animals and babies.

The European Parliament voted on Thursday on the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (ANIT). 

For 18 months, ANIT investigated live animal transport and concluded that animals placed on transport in Europe often lack food and water, are transported in extremely hot and cold temperatures, in overcrowded cargo spaces and are treated badly. 

“The EU is not fulfilling its duty to ensure that animals are well during the entire transport from departure to destination,” the report concluded.

It added that transport by ship is even worse: “The majority of the 80 ships that have a European license for animal transport are very old and pose a risk to the welfare of both people and animals on board.”

ANIT’s discoveries of animal abuse were correct, but animal welfare organizations said that the recommendations made by the committee to benefit animals were too weak to make a difference in the suffering of millions of animals.

Eurogroup for Animals
The recommendations concerning transport times, transport of babies and pregnant animals and transport of animals at sea to countries outside the EU, fall seriously short to reduce animal suffering during transport, animal welfare organizations said.

“We hoped that the European Parliament would step up the ANIT report’s ambition and reflect citizens’ views by banning any long-distance transport, and refining, replacing and reducing intra-EU transport,” Reineke Hameleers, CEO of Eurogroup for Animals, said.

Compassion in World Farming
“These recommendations do very little to better protect animals from the often horrific, and sometimes deadly, conditions they have to endure during transport within the EU or when exported to third countries every year,” Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU, said.

“Baby animals such as calves can still be transported from the age of 4 weeks or even younger, suffering hunger, thirst and thermal stress,” Kikou said, adding that the EU even allows pregnant cows to be transported “who sometimes end up giving birth in terrible conditions on board vehicles or ships.”

Four Paws
Pierre Sultana, director of the European Policy Office of animal welfare organization Four Paws, said that it was an opportunity for the European Parliament “to take a clear stance against cruel transports and call for stricter transport times.”

“We need stricter measures to protect animals during transport. It is as simple as that, and we need them now. This has been an issue for too long that has been ignored,” Sultana said.

“We need a total ban of transports by sea and exports to third countries, a ban on transport of unweaned animals, and drastic reductions of total transport times,” he added.

Party for the Animals
“It is a shame and a missed opportunity that the European Parliament has not made stricter recommendations to reduce animal suffering during transport. Long-distance transport must be definitively curbed. Certainly at sea, and certainly to countries outside the EU,” Anja Hazekamp, member of the European Parliament and member of the Party for the Animals, said.

“This is because a number of key members of the Commission of Inquiry had only one goal: to secure the profits of export companies on the backs of animals. Problematic transports can still continue if no courage is shown. Exceptions often become the rule and leave room for differences of interpretation, especially when financial interests are involved,” Hazekamp warned.

“The welfare of animals is seriously at stake. We need a system change. We have to take big steps and thoroughly review European legislation, because small steps do not help animals in practice,” Hazekamp said.

A new EU animal welfare legislative proposal is expected in the autumn of 2023. Some MEPs called on the European Commission to act now and end the suffering of millions of animals, as reported in the Committee of Inquiry’s findings. 

MEPs also favoured the transport of semen or embryos over breeding stock, and carcasses and meat over animals being moved for slaughter. 

The Animal Reader is a small independent news platform with daily posts about issues affecting animals.

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