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Improving animal welfare standards during transport is an issue which continues to be explored and subject to intense discussion, in both the European Parliament and Council, in preparation for the revision of the existing legislation (Regulation 1/2005), as announced under the EU Farm to Fork Strategy.

The European Commission is currently carrying out a review of the current legislation and a public consultation is expected in H2 2021, with new legislation to be proposed by the end of 2022.

Contributing to the review will be a report from the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (called the ANIT Committee). The committee’s regular meetings have hosted both national officials, who have discussed the implementation of the current legislation in their countries (Rob Doyle from the  Department of Agriculture spoke on Ireland’s efforts), as well as numerous representatives from animal welfare NGOs, who have highlighted implementation failures and worst-case scenario breaches of the legislation (Ethical Farming Ireland presented a very negative view on calf welfare and live exports from Ireland a number of weeks ago).

The committee has to date taken particular aim at sea transportation of live animals (with some in the committee seeking an outright ban), the age of animals being transported, the length of journeys, and exports to third countries which do not have comparable animal welfare standards to those in the EU. The committee have also recently focused in on whether technology such as CCTV, GPS or temperature monitoring, could play a greater role in monitoring movements, to ensure welfare standards are observed to a much greater extent. Irish MEPs, Colm Markey and Billy Kelleher and active members and participants in the Committee’s debates.

This month’s Agricultural Council meeting also included a discussion on the issue, during which EU Farm Ministers, similarly to MEPs voiced their support for the introduction of higher animal welfare standards during transport, again particularly in relation to sea transportation.

The Council discussion stemmed from the publication a new “Evaluation of the EU Animal Welfare Strategy 2012-2015”, which highlighted that while overall progress has been made on animal welfare standards through the sharing of best practices and development of new guidelines, problems with sea transportation remains as relevant today as in 2012. Irish Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue rightly asserted that proper implementation of the current legislation was critical to addressing concerns.

The Commission has committed to ensuring better implementation of the existing legislation until new rules are introduced. Speaking to MEPs this month, Commission officials stated that they are planning to look into the possibility of creating a database that would include all the certificates of approval for vessels in Europe and allow for the sharing of information across national competent authorities, focused on inspections and controls.

There is also a plan to create a scoreboard, which would make it possible to exclude poorly performing vessels from animal transport, as well as examining the option of requiring the presence of an official veterinarian in every maiden voyage. Options are also being explored on how countries could better financially support local slaughter houses and markets, to reduce dependency on live transport.

As part of the Commission’s legislative review, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has launched its own consultation, which seeks stakeholders’ opinions on the application on the current legislation and specifically on what practical difficulties exist in complying with it. The consultation is open until June 10th 2021.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive