- The case studies of Brazil and Australia, two major meat producers, demonstrate that their guidelines, codes of conduct and good practices for animal transport are by and large already regulated by law in the EU.
- The volume of international trade in live animals results in serious animal welfare problems and violations of recognised animal welfare standards (e.g. OIE-Standards).
- The most important European legal standards regulating the transport of live animals have not been significantly revised since it came into force, despite numerous studies and demands for a higher level of animal welfare. Therefore, legislation on animal welfare should be adapted to the actual needs of the animals and to their ability to cope with the conditions during transport (e.g. transport duration generally limited to a maximum of 8 hours).
- Scientific projects have been carried out as preliminary work for the implementation of higher animal welfare standards throughout the entire transport of animals within the EU, so it is now urgently recommended that these be extended and implemented. Therefore, time-limited approvals of means of transport for animals should be carried out throughout the EU as well as control posts, staging points, assembly centres, transport companies, and as far as possible the main routes outside of the EU should be certified and audited by independent institutions.
- As poor compliance and improper enforcement lead to poor animal welfare, the Commission’s role in improving enforcement is to stimulate and facilitate the work of competent authorities in the Member States. Therefore, the harmonisation, standardisation and digitalisation of the enforcement of animal welfare law by competent authorities (CA) are key elements to improve animal welfare during long journeys.
Per year almost two billion animals are transported via road, sea or air on journeys that can take several weeks. More precisely, within the global trade of live farm animals at least five million are in transit across borders each day (The Guardian, 2020). The transport of live animals in or to third countries involves an international dimension with different legislative and social approaches concerning animal welfare obligations. The international dimension places high demands on the organisational and logistical competence of the economic partners, who simultaneously have to cope with increased hazards and risks for animal welfare caused by long transport routes under possibly unfavourable environmental conditions.
The study provides a brief overview of the “good practice” developed and applied in third countries for welfare-friendly animal transport, as listed in guidelines of the examples of Brazil and Australia – both with high export quotas for livestock animals sometimes involving very long overland journeys. In these countries, many aspects of transport planning, implementation and time limits, some of which are quite central (e.g. loading densities), are listed exclusively in guidelines. In the EU, on the other hand, the guidelines for good (interpreting animal welfare law) and better (going beyond animal welfare law) transport practice, which have been developed in numerous projects primarily serve to interpret Regulation (EC) No 1/2005.
A detailed analysis of the European legal framework on animal welfare during transport c confirms that Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 and Regulation (EC) No 1255/97 concerning control posts are valid until the animal reaches its final destination in the third country, as confirmed by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Most of the third countries only have limited legislation on animal welfare and thus the role of CA for its enforcement is also limited. Furthermore, enforcement is complicated by poor information exchange at official level between different countries. However, these countries belong to the OIE and have recognised the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code (2019), which sets out minimum animal welfare standards in Chapter 7 regarding transport.
Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 (hereinafter referred to as Regulation) is partly based on a scientific background from the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) and the European Food and Safety Agency (EFSA). However, the scientific evidence primarily serves the interpretation of the undefined requirements of Art. 3 of the Regulation and the identification of possible needs for amendments. As the enforcement of the Regulation is to be risk-based, the EFSA has developed guidelines on a scientific basis, e.g. for the risk assessment of animal transport. But, these as well as other results from EU projects dealing with higher animal welfare standards during transport and the criteria-based certification of control posts, have not yet found their way into practice, which would be of great importance for monitoring third-country transports in particular.
In recent years Commission policy has focused on general conditions for the transport of live animals. This included the development and implementation of “good” as well as “better practices” for the organization and execution of long transports. Additionally, for this purpose, a platform for animal welfare was established with the participation of delegates from industry, science and the authorities from the Member States. However, for years, many FVO audits in EU Member States revealed that the introduction of the Regulation and the practical implementation of the resulting requirements concerning animal welfare were insufficient not only due to large differences between individual Member States: in a report to the European Parliament the Commission stated that poor compliance and improper enforcement lead to poor animal welfare.
Based on the results of FVO (Food and Veterinary Office) audits and in order to reduce the differences between Member States regarding the enforcement of the Regulation’s provisions, study visits by members of the enforcement authorities of some Member States were carried out. As a result, a collection of enforcement practices was developed, which could be easily harmonized at EU level. Nevertheless, some aspects remained open, such as access of the authorities to electronic data, which is crucial for enforcement, information exchange between Member States, sea transport on ships and ferries, transport legs in third countries and the execution of retrospective controls.
The “EU Network of National Contact Points (NCP) on Animal Welfare during Transport” also prepared a document to improve and standardize regulatory controls on road transport for live animal exports to third countries, taking into account the ECJ rulings. All aspects of route planning by the organizer, loading of animals for transport and access to electronic data were listed. In particular, attention was paid to plausibility checks, the existence of route-related emergency plans and the inclusion of weather forecasts.
The Commission report on the welfare of animals transported by road, including to third countries (2020), also noted that due to the international dimension, there are major difficulties in enforcing the complex requirements of animal welfare legislation. Large differences between the member states were still found, leading to sometimes serious animal welfare violations, as confirmed by numerous reports from NGOs. These violations are usually not detected and punished by competent authorities.
In the case of transport by sea on a vessel, it is impossible for CAs at the point of departure to carry out controls on the entire transport until the final point of destination (as indicated by the journey log) is reached. This problem was also not addressed in the NCP’s revised Network Document on the transport of live animals by sea. This deficit was also reported in the Commission’s latest overview report on the export of animals by sea (2020). The CAs at the point of departure are responsible for verifying the planning of the transport on the sea and also for the planning of the road transport from the port of landing to the final destination in the third country. Since the CA has no access to reliable information on the individual steps of these complex transports, it is not in a position to carry out controls.
Finally, neither the current legal situation, its implementation in the Member States nor its enforcement by competent authorities nor the existing legal norms and guidelines within third countries are able to ensure that animals are effectively protected from injury, pain and suffering during long journeys, especially in third countries.
Therefore, legal norms on animal welfare during transport should be revised, in particular, to allow for more fitting rules for the individual species and categories of animal species. In addition, the transport, resting and feeding intervals should be adapted first to the actual needs of the animals and secondly to their individual coping capacity. Moreover, the authorized duration of transportshould generally be limited to 8 hours – including the loading and unloading process – regardless of the means of transport used. Exceptions for prolonged durations of transport should only be based on a case-by-case decision including approval by the CA.
Enforcement of the Regulation and the ECJ rulings by the CA must be harmonized and strengthened through an EU-wide standard catalogue. All authorities directly or indirectly involved in the respective transport operation must have access to the related electronic data at any time. Furthermore, the results of inspections and controls should also be entered into this system, which should also allow free entries to be filled in.
An EU-wide harmonized set of technical requirements and systems for the approval of all kinds of transport means (road vehicles, vessels, Ro-Ro ferries, containers) should be developed and applied by specialised experts. Ports of exit from the EU and the ports in the third countries, control posts and staging points as well as transporters and organizers within the EU and in third countries should be certified, approved and audited by specialized experts in cooperation with CA according to a uniform set of requirements. Audits for verification should take place at intervals of no more than 2 years.