The EU and its member states must better enforce existing rules on protecting transported animals and penalise all offenders, Parliament said on Thursday.

In a resolution, adopted by 411 votes in favour to 43 against, with 110 abstentions, MEPs renewed Parliament’s 2012 call for a strong and uniform enforcement of the 2005 EU law on protecting transported animals, currently poorly applied in some EU states.

The EU Commission should impose penalties on member states failing to apply EU rules correctly, MEPs say. EU states should prosecute breaches with effective and harmonised penalties, including confiscating vehicles and compulsory retraining for staff.

Stricter checks and better transport vehicles

MEPs also want to deploy modern technology to improve enforcement of current rules, including geolocation systems to track animals’ location and the duration of journeys, and a real-time feedback loop between points of departure and arrival. They push for a new 2020-2024 animal welfare strategy and a clear definition of what constitutes fitness for transport.

Parliament calls on national authorities to:

carry out more unannounced and risk-based checks,

inform authorities in all countries along the transport route if a breach is identified,

suspend or withdraw transporter’s license for repeat offenders

ban non-compliant vehicles and vessels, and

adapt ports to animal-welfare requirements and improve pre-loading checks.

MEPs also want a science-based update of EU rules on transport vehicles to ensure sufficient ventilation and temperature control, appropriate drinking and liquid feed systems, reduced stocking densities and vehicles adapted to the needs of each species.

Cutting transport time and dealing with exports

Animal journey times should be as short as possible, Parliament says. MEPs support local, mobile or on-farm slaughter and meat-processing facilities close to the place of rearing, short distribution circuits and direct sales. They also want the Commission to specify appropriate journey times for different species and to develop a strategy to shift from live animal transport to transport of meat-and-carcass and germinal products, when possible.

MEPs also insist that unless transport standards in non-EU countries are aligned to EU ones and properly enforced, the EU should seek to mitigate the differences through bilateral agreements or, if not possible, ban transport of live animals to these countries.

The resolution recommends setting up an inquiry committee on the welfare of animals transported within and outside the EU at the beginning of the next parliamentary term. The committee should properly investigate reported ill-treatment of transported animals and the lack of enforcement of existing EU rules.

The report, which was authored by ECR Danish MEP Jørn Dohrmann, recommends a ban on live animal transport to third countries where their animal welfare standards do not at least meet the standards set in the EU. This comes after the ECJ has previously ruled that EU based entities are still responsible for animal welfare, even after they have entered a third country.

Dohrmann’s report has also called for improvements to be made in data collection, which varies widely between Member States, and also calls for a stronger link between CAP payments and animal welfare.

“Actors in the transport chain need to live up to their obligations, whether they are farmers, traders of animals, veterinarians, or transport companies. We have now made it clear to the Commission and the member states that they must do so, either by enforcing current rules properly or by looking into new policy tools to apply new technology and minimise transport times”, said rapporteur Jørn Dohrmann (ECR, DK).

“This applies to non-EU countries too. As the European Court of Justice said, the EU is responsible for animals even after they have left its territory. Therefore, either those countries ensure as high a level of protection for transported animals as we do or we should ban exports of live animals to those countries”, he added.

S&Ds: It’s time for the member states to respect rules on animal transport

During the vote today in plenary endorsing the report on better animal welfare for transport within and outside the EU, the Social Democrats in the European Parliament reiterated the need for better animal welfare when animals are transported within the EU, and over its external borders. The S&D members in the agriculture committee had made it clear that the implementation of the current Regulation needs to improve, not only within the EU, but also in long-distance transport to third countries.

“Every year over a billion animals travel the roads of Europe and at least six million of them on routes that take over eight hours. The statutory minimum requirements are rarely met to a satisfactory level.  Animal welfare must stay on the political agenda, to inform a new, sustainable agricultural policy as well as any revision of the Animal Transport Regulation,” stated Maria Noichl who shadowed this report for the S&D Group.

“The transport of live animals has steadily increased in recent decades. This comes from increasing farm specialisation, concentration in different stages of production, and processes such as slaughter being carried out where costs are lowest. Transport of live animals is often cheaper than transporting meat but this should not be the objective.  We need to address this animal suffering – ideally with long-distance transport for adult animals limited to a maximum of eight hours. This could also have a positive impact on the environment, with fewer animal transport trucks on the road,” she added.

“The current Regulation already provides good rules, but they are often neglected or poorly implemented in different EU member states. It is time for member states to finally bring changes. Animal welfare is not optional!” Noichl pointed out.

GUE/NGL: The fight is far from over until the Commission takes action

MEP Anja Hazekamp (Partij voor de Dieren, Netherlands) welcomed the warning from the Parliament but highlighted that the fight is far from over until the Commission takes action:

“Better inspections and heavier sanctions for violations of animal transport standards are urgently needed. It is of great importance that animal welfare during transport is dealt with in practice and not just on paper.

“Every year, millions of animals are transported over extremely long distances in overloaded trucks. Current enforcement of animal welfare rules between many EU countries is inadequate – and even worse to non-EU countries. Last summer I visited exit ports in Slovenia, Croatia and Romania, where I witnessed with my own eyes how animals suffer tremendously due to maltreatment, extremely long waiting times and extreme temperatures with no access to feed and water. There was no enforcement at all. Only the industry was protected,not the animals.”

Hazekamp went on to urge a ban on EU live animal exports to third countries:

“The European Court of Justice ruled that animals should be protected according to European regulations during their entire journey, even if it ends outside the EU. This cannot be guaranteed at all, so for that reason, the transport of animals to countries outside the EU must be prohibited.”

MEP Stefan Eck (Independent, Germany) condemned this disregard of animals as a reflection of EU values:

“It is a shame we still struggle to implement Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of live animals during transport. It has been proved countless times, this regulation is not enforced.”

“Shame on the Commission who does not have the guts to launch infringement procedures against failing governments! It says a lot about the EU’s poor values: animals don’t count,” Eck concluded.