European Parliament approves new committee on live transport of animals

The Committee will assess the major barriers currently impeding the enforcement of the Transport Regulation and will examine the responsibilities of the EU Commission and Member States in enforcing and implementing the rules. [SHUTTERSTOCK]

The European Parliament approved the setting up of an Inquiry Committee on live transport on Friday (19 June) with an overwhelming majority of 605 out of 689 MEPs in favour, after audits revealed major problems with the welfare of animals during transport.

The Inquiry Committee is an investigative instrument that the Parliament can decide to establish in order to address pressing societal issues.

The Committee will assess the major barriers currently impeding the enforcement of the Transport Regulation, and will also be tasked with examining the responsibilities of the EU Commission and member states in enforcing and implementing the rules.

The call for this Inquiry Committee came from 183 MEPs, in a request originally submitted back in 2018.

The European Commission has conducted several audits on animal welfare during transport in the past three years, revealing major animal welfare problems and low levels of compliance.

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.

This is the first inquiry approved by the Parliament in this legislative mandate and only the third since its establishment.

MEPs join call for ban on live animal transport amid COVID-19 border delays

More than 40 members of the European Parliament have joined a coalition of NGOs calling for a ban on long-distance animal transport during the coronavirus crisis. They argue that the reintroduction of border controls has resulted in delays which risk affecting animal welfare and, by extension, human health.

The decision comes on the back of more than 200 investigations into animal welfare during transport since 2007 as well as increasing attention to animal welfare at EU level, with animal welfare is a key competent of the EU Commission’s flagship food policy, the Farm To Fork strategy.

Thomas Waitz, member of the Agricultural Committee and co-chair of the European Greens, called this a great first step towards improving the animal welfare conditions in Europe.

“The EU governments and the Conservatives in the European Parliament can no longer look away from the horror and animal cruelty on European roads. The current EU regulation is outdated and lacks in all areas: implementation, controls and consequences for breaching the EU regulation.”

He added that it requires “not only a tighter network of controls but also shorter transport times and better care of the animals during the journey,” stressing that the “industrialized system of farming and its subsequent costs for animals and humans must be examined here”.

A spokesperson for farmers association COPA-COGECA told EURACTIV that animal welfare during transport is a “complex issue,” and one which they believe “cannot be solved by simply banning it or by imposing a limit on transport time.”

“What we would like to see before coming up with any new legislation is that member states strictly implement the Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 and all other EU legislation on animal welfare,” they added.

However, the decision has been warmly welcomed by animal welfare campaign groups, who praised it as a step in the right direction.

Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU, said that this decision “brings hope,” highlighting that animals often face “long and gruesome journeys” across the EU.

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,” she said, adding that the EU must “reduce the number and overall duration of transports and put an end to animal exports outside EU borders”.

Pierre Sultana, director of the European Policy Office of FOUR PAWS, said that the decision was a “clear sign for member states and the Commission to do more to avoid animal suffering and enforce EU regulation”.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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