Europe Extends Helping Hand to Animals in Transport

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 4, 2007 (ENS) - Animals transported by humans for food or other uses will have to be treated more compassionately after tomorrow, when a new European Union regulation on animal welfare in transport enters into force.

The European Commission says its activities "start with the recognition that animals are sentient beings." The regulation aims to ensure that animals do not endure avoidable pain or suffering, and obliges the owners and keepers of animals to respect minimum welfare requirements.

European Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou said today, "This important animal welfare legislation aims to reduce the stress and harm that animals can experience during land and sea journeys."

Among the new safeguards for animals being introduced are higher standards for vehicles and equipment, and stricter requirements for those dealing with animals in transport.

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The suffering of animals in transport is often disregarded. (Photo courtesy WSPA)
The regulation also provides for measures to ensure the better enforcement of EU rules in this area, such as the use of satellite navigation systems."

The regulation meets the demands for an upgrade of standards on the transport of live animals of animal welfare groups such as the Eurogroup for Animals and the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

Under the new rules, vehicles used to transport animals for eight hours or more will have to be upgraded and officially approved. New equipments in the vehicles will ensure that the microclimate in the vehicle is more adapted for the animals and stricter watering requirements are set out.

Special attention is paid to young animals and newborn animals, and females within one week of giving birth may not be transported at all.

Drivers and attendants of animals in transit will be subject to compulsory training, and from 2008 they must be certified to care for the animals.

The new legislation extends and clarifies the chain of responsibility for the animals, to include not only transport operators but also traders, drivers, and staff at each point of the journey.

Given that animals tend to experience more stress when being loaded and unloaded from vehicles, better rules for the handling of animals at these times are set out, as are new requirements for loading/unloading facilities.

From now on, any new vehicles to be used for the long distance transport of animals on trips lasting over eight hours must be equipped with a satellite navigation system. This will allow better controls on the enforcement of EU rules on travel and rest times, the Commission says. Older trucks which are already in use have until 2009 to install this equipment.

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Chickens in transport across Finland (Photo courtesy Oikeutta Elaimille)
Europe faces a growing threat of "devastating" animal disease epidemics, as a result of long distance transport of animals and increasingly dense livestock populations in some areas, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, warned in 1998.

The trend toward moving animals and animal products over long distances has accelerated within the European Union since the creation of the single market, the FAO said.

The opening of trade routes between Europe, the Near East and the Commonwealth of Independent States could allow animals infected with diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease to enter Central or even Western Europe if they escape detection by official border controls, the UN agency warned.

The new European regulation does not include new measures on travelling times or stocking densities, as the Commissionís original proposal had envisioned, due to the failure of the European Council of Ministers to reach a compromise on this issue.

However, Commissioner Kyprianou has committed to bringing forward proposals on these two aspects of animal transport before the end of 2009.

The European Food Safety Authority has already issued opinions on stocking densities for animals in transport, and Kyprianou said the Commission will closely consult with member states and stakeholders on this issue.