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Animal transports

#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

Help farmers to end cage farming

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“We strongly support the Citizens’ Initiative 'End the Cage Age' for farm animals. Together with 1.4 million Europeans we ask the Commission to propose the right measures to end cage farming,” said Michaela Šojdrová MEP, EPP Group member of Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.

“Animal welfare can be best guaranteed when farmers get the right incentives for it. We support a smooth transition from cages to alternative systems within a sufficient transition period that is considered for each species specifically,” added Šojdrová.

As the European Commission has promised to propose new animal welfare legislation in 2023, Šojdrová underlines that an impact assessment must be done before, by 2022, including the costs of the required transformation in both the short and the long-term. “As different species, laying hens or rabbits, require different conditions, the proposal must cover these differences with a species by species approach, by 2027. Farmers need transition periods and a compensation of the higher production costs,” Šojdrová said.

“To guarantee animal welfare and to not disadvantage our European farmers, we need effective control if imported products respect EU animal welfare standards. Imported products must comply with European animal welfare standards so that our high-quality production will not be replaced by low-quality imports,” emphasised Šojdrová.

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Animal transports

Animal welfare victory: CJEU ruling confirms member states' right to introduce mandatory pre-slaughter stunning  

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Today (17 December) is a historic day for animals, as the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) clarified that member states are allowed to impose mandatory pre-slaughter stunning. The case raised from the ban adopted by the Flemish government in July 2019 which made stunning compulsory also for the production of meat by means of traditional Jewish and Muslim rites.

The verdict ruled that member states can legitimately introduce mandatory reversible stunning in the framework of Art. 26.2(c) of the Council Regulation 1099/2009 (Slaughter Regulation), with the aim to improve animal welfare during those killing operations carried out in the context of religious rites. It clearly states that the Slaughter Regulation “does not preclude member states from imposing an obligation to stun animals prior to killing which also applies in the case of slaughter prescribed by religious rites”.

This judgment considers the latest development on reversible stunning as a method that successfully balances the apparently competing values of religious freedom and animal welfare, and it concludes that “the measures contained in the (Flemish) decree allow a fair balance to be struck between the importance attached to animal welfare and the freedom of Jewish and Muslim believers to manifest their religion”.

Eurogroup for Animals has followed the Court case closely and in October it released an opinion poll showing that EU citizens do not want to see animals slaughtered while fully conscious.

“It is now clear that our society doesn’t support animals to unduly suffer at the most critical time of their lives. Reversible stunning makes it possible to successfully balance the apparently competing values of religious freedom, and the concern for animal welfare under current EU law. Acceptance of pre-slaughter stunning by religious communities is increasing both in EU and non-EU countries. Now it’s time for the EU to make pre-slaughter stunning always mandatory in the next revision of the Slaughter Regulation,” said Eurogroup for Animals CEO Reineke Hameleers.

Throughout the years, experts have raised concerns about the serious animal welfare implications of killing without pre-cut stunning (FVE, 2002; EFSA, 2004; BVA, 2020), as acknowledged by the Court itself, in another case (C-497/17).

The case will now go back to the Flanders’ constitutional court which will have to confirm and implement the CJEU’s ruling. Furthermore, the imminent revision of the Slaughter Regulation, as announced by the European Commission in the framework of the EU Farm to Fork strategy, gives the chance to further clarify the matter by making pre-slaughter stunning always compulsory and move towards a Europe that cares for animals.

Following the European Court of Justice’s decision this morning to uphold the ban on non-stun slaughter in the Belgian regions of Flanders and WalloniaChief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), has issued the following statement:

“This decision goes even further than expected and flies in the face of recent statements from the European Institutions that Jewish life is to be treasured and respected. The Court is entitled to rule that member states may or may not accept derogations from the law, that has always been in the regulation, but to seek to define shechita, our religious practice, is absurd.

“The European Court of Justice’s decision to enforce the ban on non-stun slaughter in the Flanders and Wallonia regions of Belgium will be felt by Jewish communities across the continent. The bans have already had a devastating impact on the Belgian Jewish community, causing supply shortages during the pandemic, and we are all very aware of the precedent this sets which challenges our rights to practise our religion.

“Historically, bans on religious slaughter have always been associated with the far-right and population control, a trend that is clearly documented a can be traced back to bans in Switzerland in the 1800s to prevent Jewish immigration from Russia and the Pogroms, to the bans in Nazi Germany and as recently as 2012, attempts to ban religious slaughter in the Netherlands were publicly promoted as a method of stopping Islam spreading to the country. We now face a situation where, with no consultation of the local Jewish community, a ban has been implemented and the implications on the Jewish community will be long lasting.

“We are told by European leaders that they want Jewish communities to live and be successful in Europe, but they provide no safeguards for our way of life. Europe needs to reflect on the type of continent it wants to be. If values like freedom of religion and true diversity are integral, than the current system of law does not reflect that and needs to be urgently reviewed. 

“We will continue to work with representatives of the Belgian Jewish community to offer our support in any way that we can.”

Opinion poll on slaughter 
Summary of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) case C-336/19
Amicus Curiae on CJEU case
Advocate General opinion

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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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