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"Outside the building of the European Parliament in Strasbourg" by European Parliament is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

ICOS has welcomed the final outcome of a vote in the European Parliament on live animal transport.

The European Parliament’s report includes a range of recommendations for the European Commission in advance of changes to existing legislation on animal welfare during transport.

The European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (ANIT) initially proposed a number of recommendations that would have negatively impacted the Irish dairy industry.

However, a huge backlash on the proposals and concerns raised by ICOS and our colleagues throughout the EU agri-food sector led to MEPs, including the majority of those from Ireland, backing a number key amendments to the recommendations, when they went to a vote in the European Parliament plenary:

  • The recommendation that the minimum age of transport for calves be raised to 35 days and a 2-hour limit placed on the transport of unweaned calves older than this was deleted in favour of a 28-day age limit and an exemption to this allowed for journeys under 50 km.
  • A proposed ban on transport of pregnant heifers in third trimester was amended to allow their transport for up to 4 hours.
  • An amendment to limit transport by sea to 24 hours was rejected.
  • All the amendments that called to ban exports to third countries or to set up a blacklist of countries, where live animals can be exported have been rejected. Nevertheless, the recommendations still call for “the Commission to develop a list of third countries applying rules at least as protective as those in the EU”.

While these recommendations from the European Parliament hold no legal force, they are likely to be very influential in shaping the Commission’s new legislative proposal on the matter, which is expected in 2023.

In particular, the proposed restrictions on un-weaned calves and pregnant animals will be closely examined by the Commission, as they have already signalled that this will be an area of focus in the new legislation. A 28-day minimum age limit as proposed by the Parliament, although significantly less restrictive than the initial proposal, would still have a significant impact on Ireland’s 150,000 head calf export trade.

The work untaken by Irish MEPs, in particular Billy Kelleher and Colm Markey, to reject the extreme proposals of the EU Animal Protection Committee proved critical.

None the less, this vote is a milestone for the industry and signals a significant shift in animal transport arrangements to take place in the coming years.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive