Animal transport research initiated by the Party for the Animals yields harsh conclu­sions

8 december 2021

Animal transportation rules within and from Europe are systematically violated. This is the conclusion of the European Parliamentary Inquiry Committee, which carried out an investigation into animal transports. `The conclusions of the investigative report do justice to the horrific truth,’ says MEP Anja Hazekamp of the Dutch Party for the Animals. `They are a strong signal against the barbaric way animals are transported within Europe and far across its borders.’ Although Hazekamp also says that the recommendations in the report need to be much stronger. `We will do everything we can for stricter rules and enforcement!’

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MEP Anja Hazekamp checks animal transports in Slovenia and Croatia.

On the initiative of the Party for the Animals, an official investigation was launched a year and a half ago into abuses in animal transportation. The conclusions were adopted last Thursday. The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee for Animal Transports (ANIT) unequivocally stated that European rules are systematically violated, and that animal welfare is seriously under threat. `The investigative report is clear: the way animals are currently being transported is unacceptable. This across-the-board recognition is a step in the right direction,’ said MEP Anja Hazekamp.

In recent years, Hazekamp conducted her own investigations into animal transports at the European external borders in Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Bulgaria, and Turkey. And last year, she monitored the 'horror ship' the Elbeik in the Spanish port of Cartagena. Her investigations have always brought serious abuses to light. `Often, animals on trucks and ships can't even stand upright. They are transported even if they are sick, injured, newly born or heavily pregnant. Frequently, animals get no or too little water and food. And transports continue even when it’s freezing or during a heatwave. They can take days, sometimes months,’ says Hazekamp.

Animal protection organisations have been reporting on serious and structural abuses for years, but the European Commission never saw the need for adjusting regulations in a far-reaching way. `The misconception that these are incidents has now definitively been refuted,’ says Anja Hazekamp.

Structural abuses

The Inquiry Committee visited places where animals are exported, and interrogated the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority, national authorities, animal protection organisations, veterinarians, transporters, and farmers. Structural abuses came to light: too little food and water, extreme temperatures, overcrowded cargo spaces and rough treatment during loading and unloading. Sick, wounded and heavily pregnant animals were put on transport. Very young animals that are still dependent on mother's milk and cannot drink unassisted, were also transported without being fed on the journey.

Especially on long-distance transports to areas outside the European Union, such as Russia, Turkey, Africa and the Middle East, the committee found evidence of much animal suffering. Transports on ships are problematic: `The majority of the 80 ships that have a European licence for animal transports are very old and pose a risk to the welfare of both humans and animals on board', the report states. `The EU is not fulfilling its duty to ensure that animals are taken care of during the entirety of the transport, from departure to destination,’ the committee concluded.

The committee has made several recommendations to the European Commission and the 27 EU countries. For example, animals younger than five weeks such as calves and goats, and animals that are in the last trimester of their pregnancy may no longer be transported if the committee gets its way. Nor should old animals, such as retired dairy cows and laying hens, be put on long journeys anymore, and the condition of all animals should be checked before loading.

A red list should be drawn up of carriers who often break the rules and their license should be revoked. And EU countries should not grant permission so easily for transports that are deemed problematic from the start. If they do, the European Commission must start criminal proceedings more quickly. `Those are all big victories,’ Hazekamp says.

Make an end to horror transports!

MEP Anja Hazekamp of the Dutch Party for the Animals protesting against live animal transport

But, as far as the Party of the Animals is concerned, the recommendations are not far-reaching enough. For example, the committee wants to reduce animal transportation time to slaughter to eight hours, but with exceptions for certain areas and transport by ship. In practice, animal transports by ship take weeks or even months. `Unacceptable,’ Hazekamp says. `These horror transports by ship should not be granted exceptions. They should be stopped as soon as possible. ‘

`The recommendations leave room for unwanted transports because a number of members in key positions on the committee had one goal only: to safeguard the profits of export companies to the detriment of animals,’ says Hazekamp. `We will do everything we can to strengthen the recommendations when the entire European Parliament votes on them in January.’ Partly on the basis of these recommendations, the European Commission will adjust EU legislation for the protection of animals during transports.