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Health and Consumer Protection

Press releases

Brussels, 19 December 2000

Animal Transport: Commission steps up action to remedy shortcomings in application of EU rules

The European Commission has adopted a report on the implementation of existing EU legislation on the protection of animals during transport. The report finds major shortcomings in enforcement of the legislation by national authorities. Notably during cross-border long-distance transport animals are often subject to brutalities and improper care and handling, or are unfit to be transported in the first place. Rules on prior approval of "route plans" and on maximum travel times for animal transports are not respected. Remedial action from the side of Member States' inspectors is rare and in certain countries enforcement of animal transport rules appears to have low priority. The Commission concludes that improvements both in the legislation and in its enforcement by Member States are necessary. Various legislative initiatives for laying down clearer and more detailed rules are under way. Inspections by the Food and Veterinary Office to check enforcement at national level and infringement procedures against Member States who fail to implement the rules will be actively pursued.

"Rules on animal welfare during transport are there to be respected, just like any other law. The Commission will not tolerate the shortcomings in the implementation found in this report. Where necessary, we will make the legislation's requirements clearer and more precise to facilitate proper enforcement", David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, and also responsible for animal health and animal welfare issues, said today. "European citizens are increasingly concerned about animal welfare issues and this Commission is committed to improving welfare standards in the EU. But national governments have the primary responsibility for the day-to-day implementation of animal welfare rules and must make sure that transport firms abide by the law. "

In response to the shortcomings identified in the report the Commission is working on short-term proposals to improve the format of the route plan and giving clearer and more precise definitions of animals unfit for transport. Additionally, improvements in the co-operation and co-ordination between national authorities involved in cross-border transport, as well as in controls at national level are sought. The current directive on animal transport will therefore be amended next spring. In follow-up to scientific advice, new rules requiring temperature monitoring and ventilation of trucks used for long-distance animal transport are also in preparation for next spring.

The transport of horses from Central and Eastern European countries to the EU, and notably to Italy, is a particular area of concern. The report concludes that unloading and resting at the Union border should be made compulsory for horses. " But already now each Member State can stop a animal transport at its frontiers and decide if the journey can continue and for how long. For me it is beyond doubt that Member States should prevent animal's suffering on their territory, even if that suffering had its origin in third countries", said David Byrne.

For the longer term the Commission has asked scientific advice on animal transport, notably with respect to acceptable loading densities and travel time. As a consequence it is envisaged to reassess the rules concerning unloading and resting, watering and feeding the animals. Considering the difficulties reported related to the proper implementation of the EU legislation measures to encourage the slaughter of animals closer to their breeding place must be evaluated.

The report as published today is based on information provided by Member States, inspection reports of the Food and Veterinary Office and complaints by non-governmental organisations on the implementation of Directives 95/29/EEC and 91/628/EEC on animal transport (*). This legislation notably requires registration of firms transporting live animals, sets out maximum loading densities and a maximum travel time of eight hours. Transports of animals over 8 hours require an authorised route plan, compulsory resting time for feeding and watering and/or unloading at approved staging points, and upgraded vehicles.

The Commission believes that the most effective way to achieve a widespread improvement in animal welfare standards is to work towards an international consensus. A protocol of action to improve the protection of horses and donkeys transported over long distances was discussed with the chief veterinary officers of the Candidate countries in April 2000.

Based on the above mentioned protocol on the 16 October 2000 the Republic of Slovenia decided to introduce a more severe inspection and control regime on cross border transport of animals to verify compliance with the relevant EC legislation on transport conditions and travel times which has, since then, been incorporated in Slovenian law.

Slovenia was the first of the Candidate Countries to implement measures similar to EC Directive 91/628/EEC but, as was foreseen by the experts in a seminar on this subject held in Bratislava in September, other Eastern and Central European countries have adopted similar legislation. This was the case for the Czech Republic on 1 November 2000 and will be for Poland from 1 January 2001. Since October the Hungarian authorities are also co-operating with Slovenia by making available the necessary staging points to rest, feed and water the animals during long distance journeys.

The report will be submitted to the Council of Ministers and to the European Parliament.

(*) See also http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/aw/index_en.html

Released on 20/12/2000

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