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Tuesday 21 March 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Shutterstock/Gerard Koudenburg File image of cattle entering a trailer.
# Live Animals
MEPs vote in favour of proposals on live animal transport with some last-minute changes
The recommendations on the transport of live animals were debated today in Strasbourg.

LAST UPDATE | Jan 20th 2022, 5:34 PM

MEPS HAVE CARRIED through a vote on recommendations to change rules around live animal transport, with some proposals made less stringent around transporting unweaned and pregnant animals. 

Several recommendations were proposed following a committee report which found that EU provisions about the treatment of animals are not always complied with. 

The European Parliament set up the ANIT committee in 2020 to examine the protection of animals during transport and investigate alleged violations of EU rules.

Today, MEPs voted in favour of adopting proposals to ensure improved animal welfare during transport with 557 votes in favour, 55 against and 78 abstentions.

Some last-minute changes were made to the recommendations before the vote which, in some cases, made them less strict.

The majority of Irish MEPs voted in favour of the recommendations. Clare Daly abstained from the vote.

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to examine if we are turning a blind eye to animal welfare concerns in the live export trade. Support this project here.

Last month, the ANIT committee found that member states do not fully take the different transport needs of animals into account.

Transport violations included a lack of headroom and water or food supply, overcrowding, and the use of inappropriate transport vehicles. 

MEPs on the ANIT committee, including Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher, had put forward proposals in favour of moving to the transportation of semen or embryos over breeding stock, and carcasses and meat over moving live animals which are intended for slaughter. MEPs advocated this move today. 

The draft recommendations had called on the EU Commission to update rules, establish limits on journey times for all animals, ban the transport of animals less than 35 days old and add more controls to live animal exports.

These were tweaked before approval today. MEPs instead voted in favour of recommendations that unweaned calves aged less than four weeks should not be transported unless by farmers and over distances under 50km. 

The transport of pregnant animals in their final trimester would also have been banned under previous recommendations, but MEPs instead agreed they should not be transported for more than four hours. 

They also approved a recommendation that the journey time for domestic animals going to slaughter should not exceed eight hours. They voted in favour of having CCTV cameras on transport vehicles. 

The recommendations also say that live animal exports should only be approved in non-EU countries if they comply with European animal welfare standards.

Speaking at a European Parliament press briefing yesterday, Billy Kelleher said the EU can “have the highest standards” for animal welfare and transport guidelines while also allowing “farmers and the broader rural agricultural community throughout the European Union to continue to farm”. 

Kelleher had brought forward the new amendments on the proposals around transport of pregnant and unweaned animals. 

The MEP was a shadow rapporteur on the committee which drafted the initial proposals on transport welfare. 

Kelleher had said that the ban on transporting animals younger than 35 days and also pregnant animals in their final trimester would be a “death knell for thousands of jobs in rural Ireland”. 

In a statement today, he said that MEPs “realised that taking an extremist view on this issue would not make good policy”. 

“I do hope now that when the Commission makes its proposal for a new regulation, it will take into account the very clear view of the parliament that we can be ambitious and yet realistic,” he said. 

Dutch MEP, member of the animal rights party and vice-chair person of the ANIT committee Anja Hazekamp said there have been many instances of animals being treated poorly in transportation.

“Animals are living beings and they should be protected from pain, from stress, from suffering at all costs, but they simply aren’t,” she said at the European Parliament press briefing. 

Today, she voted against the proposals with “pain in my heart”. 

“It is a missed opportunity that the European Parliament has not made stricter recommendations to structurally reduce animal suffering during transport,” she said on Twitter. 

‘Completely unworkable’

Many had argued against the initial proposals, including Fine Gael’s Colm Markey who said in a statement yesterday that they are “completely unworkable”. 

Today he voted in favour of the recommendations and said that “common sense” prevailed. 

“The measures proposed by the Greens would have effectively banned the transport of unweaned animals under 35 days and put a maximum journey time of two hours for unweaned animals over 35 days,” he said in a statement.

“This would have caused huge problems, particularly if farmers were forced to move calves to holding centres.”

He welcomed the “more sensible amendments” passed in Parliament today. 

The Irish Farmers’ Association livestock chairman Brendan Golden had previously said the recommendations from the committee had “the potential to severely impact the competitive trade” in Ireland. 

IFA president Tim Cullinan said today that it was “vital” the “key amendments were carried” today. 

Brendan Golden said that Irish farmers “support and implement the highest welfare standards in the world”.

“Seeking to change the rules because other countries fail to implement them was not acceptable,” he said in a statement. 

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