Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 24 March 2019

MEP's want EU countries to move away from live exports (Irish farmers hope for increase)

  • More unannounced and risk-based checks and tougher penalties for offenders
  • Minimise transport time and transport carcasses rather than live animals
  • Better enforcement of existing rules, with the help of new technology
MEPs also want to deploy modern technology to improve enforcement of current rules, including geolocation systems to track animals’ location and the duration of journeys, and a real-time feedback loop between points of departure and arrival. Image: EU
MEPs also want to deploy modern technology to improve enforcement of current rules, including geolocation systems to track animals’ location and the duration of journeys, and a real-time feedback loop between points of departure and arrival. Image: EU
Lorries taking part in the trial arrive at the Port of Dover in Kent, following their journey from the former Manston Airport site. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The EU and its member states must develop a strategy to shift from live animal transport to transport of meat-and-carcass and germinal products, when possible, the European Parliament said on Thursday.

It also said Member States must better enforce existing rules on protecting transported animals and penalise all offenders.

In a resolution, adopted by 411 votes in favour to 43 against, with 110 abstentions, MEPs renewed Parliament’s 2012 call for a strong and uniform enforcement of the 2005 EU law on protecting transported animals, currently poorly applied in some EU states.

The EU Commission should impose penalties on member states failing to apply EU rules correctly, MEPs say. EU states should prosecute breaches with effective and harmonised penalties, including confiscating vehicles and compulsory retraining for staff.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has said live exports are a critical part of the infrastructure of our livestock industry playing a significant role in stimulating price competition and provide an alternative market outlet for farmers.

Live exports of cattle increased by 30% over 2017, to 246,000 head. This change was driven by a significant increase in exports to other EU countries. Calf exports increased significantly.

Irish farmers have said a strong live export trade is absolutely essential for price competition in the cattle trade and for providing major market outlets, especially for calves and weanlings. 

IFA President, Joe Healy said the exporters highlighted a number of key issues for the live trade which must be addressed by Minister Creed and the Department of Agriculture.

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He said maximising ferry and lairage capacity is key to meeting the export supply and demand for calves this year.

Meanwhile Irish exporters made it very clear that any reduction in the current 29-day assembly period for the live trade would be very damaging to the sector.

Joe Healy said, "IFA has made it very clear to Minister Creed that he cannot allow the EU restrict Irish live exports to the EU single market and under no circumstances can he accept any reduction in the 29-day period”.

Stricter checks and better transport vehicles

MEPs also want to deploy modern technology to improve enforcement of current rules, including geolocation systems to track animals’ location and the duration of journeys, and a real-time feedback loop between points of departure and arrival. They push for a new 2020-2024 animal welfare strategy and a clear definition of what constitutes fitness for transport.

Parliament calls on national authorities to:

  • carry out more unannounced and risk-based checks,
  • inform authorities in all countries along the transport route if a breach is identified,
  • suspend or withdraw transporter’s license for repeat offenders
  • ban non-compliant vehicles and vessels, and
  • adapt ports to animal-welfare requirements and improve pre-loading checks.

MEPs also want a science-based update of EU rules on transport vehicles to ensure sufficient ventilation and temperature control, appropriate drinking and liquid feed systems, reduced stocking densities and vehicles adapted to the needs of each species.

Cutting transport time and dealing with exports

Animal journey times should be as short as possible, Parliament says. MEPs support local, mobile or on-farm slaughter and meat-processing facilities close to the place of rearing, short distribution circuits and direct sales. They also want the Commission to specify appropriate journey times for different species and to develop a strategy to shift from live animal transport to transport of meat-and-carcass and germinal products, when possible.

MEPs also insist that unless transport standards in non-EU countries are aligned to EU ones and properly enforced, the EU should seek to mitigate the differences through bilateral agreements or, if not possible, ban transport of live animals to these countries.

Next steps

The resolution recommends setting up an inquiry committee on the welfare of animals transported within and outside the EU at the beginning of the next parliamentary term. The committee should properly investigate reported ill-treatment of transported animals and the lack of enforcement of existing EU rules.

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