Honourable President, Ministers,
Before the summer holidays, I want to come back to the important issue of animal welfare during transport.
This is an issue, which as you know, receives a lot of public attention by our citizens and NGOs. And it is becoming an increasingly sore point…
High temperatures are a particular concern at this time of year – especially as animals are exported by road or boat from the EU to Middle East and North African countries.
Last year, I asked for your active support to protect the welfare of animals exported to Turkey in the hot summer months and coordinate the shipments in a more efficient manner in order to avoid overcrowding.
As a result, some countries decided to stop exports on days with extreme temperatures.
I commend you for this. Thank you for leading by example.
However, what we have seen on the ground is that others are not doing enough.
Last year, in July and August, 533 trucks with cattle and sheep crossed the Turkish border when temperatures were over 30oC.
These animals were sent from 15 different Member States and in most of the cases, the conditions of the journey were just not acceptable.
There have also been problems at other EU borders, including shipments of animals by boats where appropriate animal welfare conditions, clearly, cannot be guaranteed.
Many ports in southern Europe lack facilities to protect animals from high temperatures while they wait to be loaded onto boats.
Again, this is not acceptable. It has to stop. It is a shame to treat animals like that. Either we act as human beings and respect the Lisbon Treaty requirements and our legislation on animal welfare or we stop live animals exports completely.
We are fast approaching the peak of summer.
Our ports should have facilities to care for our animals.
I urge you all to take action, to protect our values and our animals.
This is your duty and your right to do so. I wish that the EU Member States – you all - set an example in this area. There are countries around the world – such as Australia – that have already taken the decision to stop animal transport during high temperatures. Let’s not lag behind. It takes nothing away from human to be kind to an animal.
I asked to stop a huge shipment of sheep last week. I regret the fact that my call was not answered positively. I will make sure that my services investigate the conditions and the reasons behind it.
While I can’t exclude infringement procedures in these cases, I do not think that they will change the situation for animals, if we do not work together to make a real change on the ground.
So meanwhile, dear Ministers, I ask you to act. The time has come.
Now, I look forward to hearing your views.