Transport animal: the imposition of a maximum time limit is debated

La measure that worries many countries. But you should know that this sensitive issue is the subject of fierce exchanges, whether within the hemicycle or the European Council, the last of which was dated July 18 under the Czech presidency.

A committee of inquiry in the European Parliament

The European Parliament has already considered the issue for two years as part of its Committee of Inquiry into the protection of animals during transport, set up in June 2020 to examine alleged breaches of EU rules on transport. animals.

She concluded that EU provisions in this area were not always respected by Member States and did not take into account the different needs of animals.

Among the violations, the most egregious describe insufficient free height, lack of water and food, transport of animals unfit for transport and overcrowding. Inappropriate vehicles are used, transport sometimes takes place under extreme temperatures and long journey times.

The EU powerless beyond its borders

Road or sea journeys to countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Libya and Algeria, reported as high risk for animal welfare, are also particularly long and revealing.

Cases of extreme cruelty in third countries are repeatedly reported, but it is impossible for the EU to enforce its animal protection laws beyond its borders.

Rather timid recommendations

Last January, MEPs adopted several recommendations aimed at improving the sorting of animals in transit. These provided for a little more protection without, however, bringing a revolution in the treatment of transported animals.

Among the recommendations describing a strengthening of controls and sanctions, or for certain species such as rabbits and poultry, the compulsory presence of a veterinarian on board cargo ships, or the establishment of a centralized register to grant certifications maritime livestock carriers – several surveys have shown that they are among the oldest vessels approved by the EU.

A limit of eight hours of transport for animals intended for slaughter had also been put forward.

But the deputies had not committed themselves beyond these principles, when several NGOs, supported in a request submitted a few days earlier to parliament by some 900,000 citizens, demand a ban on exports of live animals to third countries. (3 million animals each year), where protection standards cannot be guaranteed, to favor the transport of meat and carcasses.

Towards a limit of eight hours of transport?

The limitation of the duration of transport made its return to the Council of European Ministers of Agriculture last July. It must be said that time is running out since the commission is preparing proposals expected at the end of 2023 with a view to strengthening the legislative framework on animal welfare.

A dozen ministers, including Belgium, pleaded for the setting of an eight-hour limit on the transport of animals to their place of slaughter. The Netherlands, very committed to this issue, want to go further: instead of transporting animals over long distances, they plead for the transport of their products (meat, seeds, etc.).

France cautious, Poland and Hungary reluctant

Other Member States are much more cautious. French Minister Marc Fesneau recalled the need to have EFSA assessments before taking a decision, believing that the first measures to be implemented would be the harmonization of rules (in the EU and for exports) and the imposition of standards equivalent to those of the EU for imported products.

A position joined by Spain and Croatia, among others. Poland is even more reluctant, it does not intend to endorse this limit of 8 hours. It calls for some caution in terms of food safety for countries that have a lower slaughter capacity than others.

Even its bell on the side of Hungary or Romania, which remind us that not all Member States have slaughterhouses near breeding grounds.

Mobile and on-farm slaughter solutions

This dimension had already been mentioned in the European hemicycle by Tilly Metz, the Luxembourg president of the commission of inquiry on the protection of animals during transport a little earlier in the year.

The MEP then called for new political tools to support small local structures as well as mobile and on-farm slaughtering solutions, which could help reduce the number of stressful journeys to slaughterhouses.

Added to the list of central European Member States reluctant to the hourly transport limit are island countries such as Ireland or Cyprus for which the question of transport by sea is essential.

On this point, tertiary legislation to improve inspections of livestock transport vessels should be adopted before the end of this year.

The question goes far beyond the political spheres. As we know, for many citizens, the primary motivation for calling for stricter rules and more penalties is an ethical concern, a desire to see animal suffering stopped or at least reduced.

Marie France Vienna

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