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EU to cut animal transport trauma

July 16, 2003 11:08 AM

Cows at Mudchute City Farm with Canary Wharf in the background.A new EU law could help to alleviate the suffering of millions of animals transported across Europe. Each year over 2 million cattle, sheep, pigs and horses travel by road, often in overcrowded trucks, without proper food and water.

Around 600,000 lambs and sheep are exported from the UK for slaughter each year. Most of these animals are sent to Italy, Greece and Spain. A typical road journey time from the UK to Italy is 50 hours and trips to Greece can take up to 90 hours.

A draft law to be presented to the European Commission today (Wednesday) sets out measures to cut transport times and improve travel conditions. EU Commissioner David Byrne is introducing this law after recent cases of animal welfare abuses confirmed that existing EU legislation is too lenient, and rarely enforced by some governments.

North West Euro-MP Chris Davies believes that the proposals are not perfect, but do provide a step in the right direction.

He said: "Ideally live animals should not have to travel these distances. But if governments across the EU cannot be persuaded to significantly reduce trade in livestock then stringent measures must be taken to protect them during transit."

"Currently pigs and horses can be transported for 24 hours and cattle and goats for 14 hours without stopping for a break. This has resulted in exhausted, injured and even dead animals arriving at their destination and something must be done to stamp out this suffering," he added.

Mr Davies is joining with the RSPCA in calling for maximum journey time of 8 hours for all animals going for further fattening or slaughter. The organisation has highlighted that existing laws are not enforced in many Southern European countries.

The draft legislation also proposes better conditions during transport including more space for animals and bedding so they can lie down without being in contact with the floor. Suitable amounts of feed and water will have to be permanently available and precise limits will be placed on the temperature inside the vehicle or container.

Loading and unloading is the most stressful part of the journey for animals and the new proposals remove most of this by making vehicles comfortable enough to accommodate animals at rest stops so they do not need to be unloaded. This also prevents contact between animals from different sources, which was blamed for helping the spread of foot and mouth disease.

There is a strong emphasis on better handling of animals and drivers of livestock vehicles will have to pass an EU-wide training course that will certify them to drive animals for five years.

Mr Davies has stressed that a European solution is needed to tackle this problem.

The Liberal Democrat MEP said: "In one journey animals can travel across up to nine European countries. EU law is needed to ensure high animal welfare standards are maintained throughout the route."