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#AnimalWelfare: 'Stop tolerating systematic violations of international law when exporting livestock to third countries'

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A five-year investigation conducted by Eyes on Animals (NL), Animal Welfare Foundation (Germany) and Tierschutzbund Zurich (Switzerland) at the EU/Turkey border has shown that as many as 70% of all inspected livestock trucks from EU countries to Turkey violate the European Regulation EC 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport. Eyes on Animals’ Director Lesley Moffat said: “Unfortunately based on our investigation we have to conclude that these violations are systematic, causing tremendous suffering to tens of thousands of animals. With the Netherlands profiling itself as a positive role model in agriculture, which was stated by secretary Van Dam in the European Parliament, The Netherlands needs to take the right action as EU President and stop this continuous animal abuse."

During the time period of the investigation, from 2010 until 2015, the EU exported over 900,000 sheep, 850,000 cows and 5,000 goats by truck on long-distance journeys to Turkey. In 2015 the export of live animals rose with 39% compared to 2014 (source: Eurostat). For 2016 the EU plans for a further increase. Together with two partner organisations, Eyes on Animals regularly inspects long-distance animal trucks passing the EU border into Turkey in Kapikule.

Lesley Moffat: “We see violations of animals being left on board for far longer than the maximum-allowed times, unrealistic journey times, false declarations of resting hours, animals suffering from extreme temperatures, a lack of water and food, overcrowded conditions on the trucks, lack of clean bedding, insufficient height and serious injuries due to poorly-designed equipment in the trucks, such as partitions with large gaps. More over many drivers are incapable and lack the skills needed on how to handle animals. These transport journeys are a true nightmare for the animals. Sick and wounded animals, animals giving birth and dying animals are deprived from care. We regularly see dead and trampled animals’.

The results of five years of investigations are captured in a report of over 1000 pages and an edited film, which will be presented to the EU-commission and its state members. 352 livestock trucks were inspected of which 247 transport companies from 13 different EU countries violated one of more laws of the EU Transport Regulation 1/2005. Moffat added: "Not one of the 13 exporting EU-countries complied with the law. There is just no excuse for this."

European Court of Justice: Comply with the law

Last year the European Court of Justice confirmed that the EU Transport Regulation on animal-protection is applicable during the whole time of travelling: from the place of departure to the final destination, even if situated outside the EU in a Third country. With the Netherlands being EU President, Eyes on Animals asks State Secretary of Agriculture Van Dam to commit to this law being respected. The declaration confirms that national authorities that approve the export of live animals need to apply and uphold these laws. ‘The Netherlands exports a relatively small number of live animals to Turkey compared to some of the other countries, however it is home to many livestock transport companies operating on this route, that pick up animals from other EU countries and bring them to Turkish slaughterhouses, feedlots of farms (cf report).

‘Economic interest more important than compliance with EU laws’

Eyes on Animals and its partner organizations accuse the European Commission of "tolerating systematic violations of the law". The EU stimulates the international trade of live farm animals, and does very little to secure adequate infrastructure and resources to protect the welfare of animals during transport. Moffat said: “It is unacceptable that animals depend on us non-profit organizations being present at the border for their protection. We do what we can, give first aid to suffering animals and send proof of violations to the responsible livestock transport companies and competent authorities, but it is the EU that should take on its responsibility in this. They are not only responsible for stimulating international trade of live animals on this route, but also responsible for the animals being given the care and protection that is stipulated within the law. ”

After years of negotiations, the EU finally succeeded to persuade Turkey to import animals from the EU in 2010. However, no provisions were made to take care of the EU animals during transport. At the border, there are no stables to unload, water or feed the animals. ‘The animals are stuck in the trucks for hours or days under extreme temperatures waiting because paperwork or health statements are often unclear. Turkey does not have an authority to uphold animal welfare legislation and the EU does not have the authority to check and fine those who violate these laws abroad. According to Moffat, the EU is well aware of this serious problem: "The EU lacks the political will to act; EU-members want to get rid of ‘surplus’ animals on the internal market to stabilize the price of livestock."

'Ban this illegal trade in animals'

The animal welfare organizations are calling for a ban on the long-distance transport of animals from the EU to Turkey.

"Aside from the systematic violations of the EU transport regulation 1/2005, this trade is also in conflict with paragraph 13 of the Lisbon Treaty that obligates us humans to provide for the welfare needs of animals as ‘sentient beings,” said Moffat. According to Eyes on Animals and its partner organizations neither the Commission, member states or the Turkish authorities, nor the exporters of animals are willing to ensure that this international trade complies with the law. Moffat concluded: "This means this is an illegal trade and therefore has to be stopped.”

Animal transports

MEPs vote for new Committee of Inquiry on #AnimalTransport

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Today (19 June), the EU Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of the establishment of a Committee of Inquiry on animal transport. Compassion in World Farming and FOUR PAWS are delighted with the outcome of the vote. At present, EU member states are poorly enforcing the EU law that is meant to protect the millions of farmed animals transported thousands of miles for slaughter, breeding or further fattening every year.

The EU needs to resolve a number of long persistent problems related to the implementation of the EU law on animal transport, including overcrowding, failure to provide the required rest stops, food and water, transport in extreme heat, transport of unfit animals and insufficient bedding.

The decision by the EU Parliament follows a wave of actions by civil society and the EU institutions, raising red flags on the issue. The EU Commission’s recent ‘Farm To Fork’ strategy clearly states that the EU Commission intends to review the legislation on animal transport. In December last year, the Council of the EU highlighted that ‘clear shortcomings and inconsistencies remain’ regarding the challenges of long-distance transport in its conclusions on animal welfare.

World Farming EU Head of Compassion Olga Kikou said: “The Parliament’s vote to put the atrocities of animal transport under the limelight brings hope. Every year millions of farm animals are transported live on long and gruesome journeys, quite often in filthy conditions, cramped, and often trampling on each other. In summer, they are transported in scathingly high temperatures, dehydrated and exhausted. Some of them perish. For many, these are the last torturous hours before they reach the slaughterhouse. EU law should protect animals from such suffering, yet most EU countries do not comply with the legal requirements regarding transport and allow such cruelty to continue. This must stop. The EU must finally reduce the number and overall duration of transports and put an end to animal exports outside EU borders.”

FOUR PAWS European Policy Office Director Pierre Sultana said: “Today's decision is a milestone for animal welfare. Parliament has taken the opportunity to address animal suffering during transport. Systematic violations during animal transport have been criticized for years. The Committee of Inquiry will investigate violations and maladministration of the Animal Transport Regulation by the European Commission and the EU member states. Parliament, as the directly elected representation of the European citizens, thus fulfils its most important task, namely the exercise of democratic oversight and control. This is a clear sign for member states and the European Commission to do more to avoid animal suffering and enforce EU regulation.”

  1. The proposal was put forward by the European Parliament’s Conference of Presidents on 11 June. During the previous legislative term, the European Parliament adopted an Implementation Report on live transport and concluded that a Committee of Inquiry on live indeed needed (2018/2110(INI), Point 22). According to the European Commission’s overview audit reports of animal transport by land and by sea, there is widespread non-compliance and regular failure by Member State authorities to enforce this law. The European Court of Auditors also concluded in its report on the implementation of animal welfare legislation that ‘weaknesses persist in certain areas related to welfare issues’ during transport.
  2. The Committee of Inquiry is an investigative instrument that the EU Parliament can decide to establish in order to address pressing societal issues. In the past legislative terms, for instance the EU Parliament established special committees in the aftermath of the LuxLeaks and mad cow disease scandals.
  3. Compassion in World Farming has campaigned for farm animal welfare and sustainable food and farming for over 50 years. We have over one million supporters and representations in eleven European countries, the US, China, and South Africa. Our EU Office campaigns for an end to the use of cruel caged systems, reducing our consumption of animal products, an end to long-distance live animal transport and the exports of live animals outside the EU, and higher animal welfare standards, including for fish.
  4. FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded by Heli Dungler in Vienna in 1988, FOUR PAWS focuses on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals kept in inappropriate conditions, as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With sustainable campaigns and projects, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term protection for suffering animals.

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Animal transports

#CrueltyFreeEurope statement on moratorium on animal experimentation

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In its response to a petition brought to the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee asking for a moratorium on experiments on animals while their value is being assessed, the Commission has once again said that it is fully committed to the ultimate goal of fully replacing animal tests.

Cruelty Free Europe – a network of animal protection organisations dedicated to bringing animal testing to an end in the European Union – welcomes that commitment but believes that it is now time to put in place a road map to turn words into a plan of action.

Cruelty Free Europe Director of Science Dr Katy Taylor said: “Now more than ever, the EU should show ambition to develop better science and turn to more humane and human relevant research and innovation. 95% of all drugs shown to be safe and effective in tests on animals fail in human trials. The cost of this failure is huge monetarily and for animals and people. If any other system were failing so comprehensively, surely it would long ago have been scrapped and other better solutions secured?”

“Back in 1993 – 27 years ago – in the fifth EU environmental action programme towards sustainability, a target was set to achieve as a priority by 2000 a 50% reduction in the number of vertebrate animals used for experimental purposes. By 1997, this action had been quietly dropped and the number of animal tests in Europe remains high. So we have heard the commitments before. It’s high time for change.”

The Commission’s response also highlights its efforts to encourage the development of non-animal methods to replace animal research. Cruelty Free Europe recognises the ground-breaking work that has been done in Europe through organisations like ECVAM, collaborations like the EPAA and Horizon funding, but says that much more needs to be done.

Dr Taylor continued: “Take the Horizon research programme where our calculations suggest that funding for Horizon 2020 projects claiming primary and secondary benefits for non-animal methods comes to a mere 0.1% of the total €80 billion programme for the period 2014 to 2020. Consider that whilst 48 Horizon projects in some way claim to contribute to non-animal methods, in the region of 300 cite the use of ‘animal models’ as part of their methodology. If Europe is serious about its goal of replacing animal experiments, then it needs to really put its money where its mouth is.”

In November 2019, a petition was submitted to the presidents of the European Commission and the European Parliament calling on the EU to carry out a systematic review of all research areas in which animals are used. In May this year, the European Parliament Committee on Petitions confirmed that the petition had been accepted as admissible and would be formally considered by the committee. Together with our European partners Cruelty Free Europe has been calling on the Commission to commit to a comprehensive plan with targets and timetables to bring an end to animal testing in the EU.

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Animal transports

Farm animals suffer at EU borders due to #Coronavirus response, says Compassion in World Farming

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With over 35 animal welfare NGOs, Compassion in World Farming sent a letter to EU leaders, asking them to adapt their response to COVID-19, since long border delays are resulting in animal suffering. We called on the EU to ban the transport of farm animals to non-EU countries, as well as journeys that last over eight hours.

Compassion in World Farming is concerned that in the new EU guidelines for border management, published this week, the EU Commission insists that the transport of live animals between EU countries must continue. These guidelines disregard the severe problems imposed on the health and welfare of farm animals being transported, especially those transported between EU and non-EU countries.

Vehicles with farm animals are being refused entry to Croatia. There are traffic queues of 40 km at the border between Lithuania and Poland and queues on the German side of the border with Poland of 65 km leading to waiting times of 18 hours. Vehicles with farm animals are also getting caught up in very long queues at the exit point between Bulgaria and Turkey – drivers transporting farm animals reported to Animals’ Angels that they needed three hours to move 300 m inside the border.

Queues at borders are stopping medical supplies and health professionals from getting through. It is even less likely that it will be possible to attend to the welfare of animals caught up in these queues.

Moreover, there is a real risk that countries close their borders without having any infrastructure in place to cater to the needs of the transported animals, and provide what is required by EU law, such as food, water and places to rest.

Compassion in World Farming’s Chief Policy Advisor Peter Stevenson said: “Due to the increased border control delays resulting from COVID-19, in many cases the transport of farm animals cannot be carried out in a way that is compliant with EU law. The EU Transport Regulation requires that animals are moved without delay to the place of destination, and that animals’ needs are met during the journey. Insisting on continued transport of animals in such conditions is irresponsible and inhumane and disregards the EU treaty, which stipulates that EU law and policies must pay full regard to animal welfare.”

Compassion in World Farming’s Head of EU Office Olga Kikou said: “The trade in live animals threatens not only the health and well-being of the animals, but it also threatens our health. The drivers, animal handlers, vets, civil servants and their families can easily get infected. Unlike others who enter and exit the EU, they are not required to be in quarantine. We are putting them and ourselves at risk. We are faced with never-before seen measures to contain the spread of the virus as an increasing number of European countries enter lockdowns. Nonetheless, we allow live animals to be transported everywhere, while the health authorities advise people to stay at home. This a double standard! The trade in live animals cannot be considered a crucial sector providing essential services to society. This absurdity needs to stop!”

For over 50 years, Compassion in World Farming has campaigned for farm animal welfare and sustainable food and farming. We have over one million supporters and representations in eleven European countries, the US, China, and South Africa.

The text of the letter can be found here. 

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