MEPs welcome decision to establish animal welfare committee in Parliament

Animal welfare campaign groups say the establishment of a special committee is particularly timely as the trade in live animal transportation is increasing across Europe.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

30 Jun 2020

The move comes after the European Commission’s recent announcement of its “Farm to Fork” sustainable food strategy, which includes plans to revise legislation on animal transport and slaughter.

Groups say that animals are being forced to make increasingly long journeys – sometimes lasting “weeks and weeks”– to far-flung places such as Russia, Uganda and Thailand.

The groups say that, globally, the live animal export business has seen a four-fold rise over the past 50 years, with nearly 2 billion animals being transported in 2017, the last year for which such figures are available.

“The committee will investigate alleged violations in the application of EU law on the protection of animals within and outside the EU, including those travelling by air, road, rail and sea” European Parliament spokesman

The new parliamentary committee will be asked to submit a report in 12 months. It is tasked with looking at a whole range of issues such as suspected lack of enforcement for regulations on space, watering, feeding and bedding.

Temperature and ventilation for transported animals will also come under the committee’s remit, said a parliamentary source.

The new committee was approved by a large majority with 605 MEPs in favour and just 53 against. It was set up after a proposal by some 183 MEPs, including GUE/NGL MEP Anja Hazekamp, a long-time animal rights campaigner.

A Parliament spokesman told this site, “The committee will investigate alleged violations in the application of EU law on the protection of animals within and outside the EU, including those travelling by air, road, rail and sea.”

“It will focus on how EU rules are being implemented by Member States and whether the European Commission is enforcing them properly.”

“The committee will look into the Commission’s alleged failure to act upon the evidence that EU rules on moving live animals across the EU and to third countries are being seriously and systematically infringed.”

Hazekamp’s campaign on the transportation issue has coincided with several high-profile incidents of alleged animal abuse during transport, including the reported capsising of a ship carrying 14,000 sheep off the coast of Romania as it travelled to the Middle East.

“We want to force EU Member States to comply with the rules and no longer permit animal transport during extreme weather conditions or for weeks on end to countries outside of the Union” Anja Hazekamp MEP

Earlier last year the welfare group Animals’ Angels followed cattle on a 6,000km route across Europe and said it had proof that the animals were not unloaded for five days and were covered in frost on vehicles.

Approximately 200 reports detailing breaches of animal welfare regulations have been made to the European commission since 2017.

Hazekamp, a Dutch MEP, says she has seen for herself many of the “questionable” practices in the transport of animals.

She said, “This inquiry committee will carry out a thorough investigation to uncover how it is possible that time again transportation is licensed under illegal circumstances.”

“We want to force EU Member States to comply with the rules and no longer permit animal transport during extreme weather conditions or for weeks on end to countries outside of the Union.” said Hazekamp, who is expected be a member of the committee.

She adds, “This is a big problem that is really in the hearts of the citizens of Europe.”

The decision to set up such a committee, she believes, marks a “historical breakthrough” for animal welfare, adding that a majority of MEPs have said that animal transports should be investigated “really firmly because they can all see there is so much going wrong.”

Francesca Porta, of Eurogroup for Animals, said it was a “very important” decision, partly because Member States have said that they cannot oblige a non-European country to comply with an EU law.

“But it’s not about obliging. It’s about Member States taking responsibility.”

Animal welfare organisation Four Paws said the move to launch a committee was a “milestone decision.”

Marta Hugas, chief scientist at the European Food Safety Authority,  said, “As part of its new Farm to Fork strategy, the European Commission is reviewing current provisions on animal welfare, with the aim of creating a more sustainable food system in the EU.”

“Having high standards of animal welfare improves animal health and food quality, reduces the need for medication and can help preserve biodiversity. Healthy, well looked-after animals are essential to a healthy food chain.”

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