30.4.2004   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 110/135


Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the ‘proposal for a Council Regulation on protection of animals during transport and related operations and amending Directives 64/432/EEC and 93/119/EC’

(COM(2003) 425 final – 2003/0171 (CNS))

(2004/C 110/23)

On 17 September 2003, the Council decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 37 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, on the above-mentioned proposal.

The Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Environment, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on this subject, adopted its opinion on 5 February 2004. The rapporteur was Mr Kallio.

At its 406th plenary session of 25 and 26 February 2004 (meeting of 26 February), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion unanimously.

1.   Introduction

1.1

Transport is one of the most controversial areas of animal welfare and has been receiving increased political and policy attention at EU level over the last few years:

a)

In December 2000 the Commission adopted a report (1) to the Council and the European Parliament on the experience acquired by Member States since the implementation of Directive 95/29/EC.

b)

The report was presented at the Agriculture Council in June 2001 which supported the outcome in the form of a specific resolution (2). In November 2001 the European Parliament adopted a resolution (3) on this report.

c)

On 11 March 2002 the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare adopted an opinion on the welfare of animals during transport. The scientific opinion provides in particular recommendations concerning the fitness of animals to be transported, the training of personnel transporting animals, the handling of animals, increased space allowances and restrictive journey time limits.

1.2

Road transport represents between 90 to 99 % of the overall trade of live animals in the EU and as such constitutes an important part of the overall economic activity associated with the commercial transport of farm animals. As such, it also plays a significant role in regional economic development. Thanks to its flexibility road transport is used by a wide range of operations and companies. The average annual trade of live animals in the EU was 2 million tons between 1996 and 2000 and 80 % of this was between EU Member States. Export to third countries outside the EU was approximately 10 % of annual transport of live animals and long distance transport amounts to just 1.5 % of animals transported in the EU.

1.3

The Protocol on the protection and welfare of animals annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community requires that in formulating and implementing agriculture and transport policies, the Community and the Member States shall pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals.

2.   Gist of the proposal

The proposal contains a series of reforms and specific provisions:

a)

The aim is to harmonise EU rules governing vehicles used for transporting animals, the training of drivers and control and enforcement by the authorities. Improvements in instruments for control and enforcement are also proposed.

b)

Under the proposal, the scope of the present provisions will be extended to apply to the transport of live vertebrate animals for commercial purposes taking place in the Community, regardless of distance, and to specific checks on consignments arriving or leaving the customs territory of the Community. The legislation does not apply to the transport of a single animal accompanied by the person who is responsible for it during transport.

c)

The transport of animals will remain subject to authorisation. The proposal introduces two types of authorisations, one for long distance journeys and the other for short distance journeys, as well as separate authorisation requirements for drivers. There is also a separate approval procedure for road vehicles used to transport animals over long distances.

d)

Harmonised training requirements are laid down for drivers and personnel handling animals.

e)

The proposed Regulation establishes detailed definitions of animals unfit for transport and bans the transport of very young animals.

f)

The proposal upgrades technical standards for road vehicles used to transport animals and updates the requirements governing vehicles used for long distance transport.

g)

More detailed rules are established for water and rail transport and a separate approval procedure is laid down for livestock vessels.

h)

The proposal lays down more detailed provisions for the loading and unloading of animals, the handling of animals during transport and handling facilities.

i)

Maximum travel times are introduced for the transport of farmed animals and there are stricter rules for the transport of horses.

j)

The proposal provides for increased space allowances for animals during transport, over both short and long distances.

k)

Journey logs are divided into the following sections: planning, place of departure, place of destination and any anomalies during the journey.

l)

Documents required for the transport of animals will be harmonised in order to facilitate enforcement and exchange of information.

m)

The proposed Regulation seeks to facilitate control and enforcement by the authorities and foster cooperation between enforcement bodies.

n)

The proposed legislation also takes account of the need to prevent the spread of infectious animal diseases.

3.   General comments

3.1

The EESC endorses the proposal's approach and its main principles and considers it important to improve animal welfare during transport. The Committee also believes that moral and ethical principles associated with animal welfare should be taken into consideration. The Committee believes that the duty of care due to animals during transport must be consistent with good animal husbandry practices informed by the best available advice from the most competent veterinarians dealing with animals.

3.2

Revelations concerning the problems associated with animal protection during transport have attracted much debate and publicity in the EU. The level of public pressure varies between Member States, however. The changes and provisions relating to animal welfare during transport in the single market must apply equally to all Member States.

3.3

The Committee welcomes the fact that the legal instrument is in the form of a Regulation, which means it is directly applicable in national legislation in each Member State. This supports the policy line that rules and implementation be harmonised in all Member States.

3.4

The proposal provides for a complete overhaul of all existing legislation on animal transport and amends Directives 64/432/EEC and 93/119/EEC on the basis of the recommendations of the Scientific Committee and the comments obtained from the consultation exercise with stakeholders. It represents a wide-ranging reform, the implementation of which will also have to take account of a host of practical and economic considerations and differing conditions - the use of the ‘Committee Procedure’ outlined in the proposal will assist in this important task.

3.5

The EESC wishes to stress that the provisions and changes contained in the proposal must be based on the latest scientific research on improving animal welfare. There must also be a realistic economic assessment of the costs of the proposed measures, both related to the investments in new equipment and infrastructure that will be required and including the social impacts that the measures could have, especially in peripheral areas and areas which are in economic decline.

3.6

In assessing the proposal, it needs to be borne in mind that animal welfare is the sum of many factors. Discussion of specific limits and recommendations could, in some cases, lead to solutions which are even worse than the present ones from the point of view of animal welfare and/or economically unsustainable. It must be possible to use discretion when this is justified and supported by competent veterinary opinion. This will allow for adequate flexibility without undermining safeguards to the welfare of animals during transport.

3.7

There is a need to establish global rules on animal transport. The fact that animals imported from third countries are subject to different transport rules distorts trade and reduces EU competitiveness in relation to third countries, since improving animal welfare means higher transport costs. Therefore, the ultimate aim of establishing European rules must be considered to be to create global rules. Indeed, the World Organisation for Animal Health (the OIE) has included animal welfare as a priority in its programme, opening the way to negotiation of common rules on a broader scale than hitherto.

3.8

Animal welfare should form a more important part of the overall package of policies related to agriculture and trade even if its role has already increased in recent years – for example, as proposed by the EU during WTO negotiations. Animal welfare should therefore become a more significant part of global trade policy's ‘Green Box’.

3.9

Animal welfare must also be included, alongside economic considerations, as a criterion in planning sustainable livestock farming. In future, the transport of carcasses and meat products could also provide an alternative opportunity to reducing the long-distance, cross-border transport of live animals.

3.10

In the proposal, the Commission draws attention to preventing the spread of infectious animal diseases, which is actually an important part of animal welfare. The animal disease epidemics of recent years and the measures taken to eliminate them have caused considerable economic losses and attracted adverse publicity. Long-range, sustainable planning can play an important role in helping prevent the spread of such diseases and specifically requires developing far sighted systems which continually take account of the potential role of animal transport in the spread of infectious diseases.

3.11

The Committee welcomes the fact that working time legislation for drivers is taken into account in planning animal transport. Animal welfare and the working time directive for drivers should be taken into consideration together, for example in the form of a single maximum limit for driving times. However, the legislation should be clear not to confuse animal transport legislation with working time legislation.

3.12

The Committee notes that no mention is given in the proposal to the relevance for human health of ensuring safe animal transport and believes that this aspect should be integrated into the approach adopted by the proposal.

4.   Specific comments

4.1

Chapter I, Article 1(1). The definition of ‘transport for commercial purposes’ should be specified as it determines the scope of the Regulation, bearing in mind that daily transport of animals from farm to farm should be excluded from the scope of the legislation (4) and that long distance transport of live animals is in any case nearly always commercial in nature. It is necessary when drawing up new rules on animal transport to take account of the special needs of breeding animals during transport.

4.2

Chapter I, Article 2(h). Notwithstanding the fact that loading and unloading can be interpreted as being part of the journey time, given that animals are being moved also during these stages in the journey, the practical measurement of journey time can only be carried out via use of the tacograph. The EESC therefore believes that the definition of journey time can only be measured from the actual start of the journey to the termination of the journey.

4.3

Chapter III, Article 16. How do you harmonise the training of drivers who already work in the sector? One way would be to hold tests for these drivers, regardless of where they received their training.

4.4

Chapter IV, Article 28. Guides to good practice should be harmonised at EU level.

4.5

Annex I, Chapter I – Fitness for transport 2 (e):. Certain Member States allow calves at 10 days old to be transported when the navel is dried. If the minimum age at which very young calves can be transported is raised to two weeks, certain practical difficulties in terms of day-to-day farm practices will be experienced. Pigs are to be considered fit for transport from three weeks old. The EESC therefore believes that the Commission should fully consider this aspect in terms of assessing the full impact of the proposal.

4.6

Annex I, Chapter III, Handling 1.8(e). The use of electric whips should be avoided as far as possible. In some cases, however, it may be necessary from the point of view of occupational safety, for example because of the large size of the animals. There is a need for harmonisation here with the recommendations of the Council of Europe, so long as these are consistent with the aims of this proposal.

4.7

Annex I, Chapter V – Journey times. The definitions of (a) ‘rest period’ and (b) ‘travel time’ should be clarified. Regarding maximum travel times, agreement should be reached on transporting animals to the place of destination without delays. The nine-hour maximum travel time is a compromise between studies of different animal species and working time legislation. In the case of bovine animals, studies show that the vehicle and animal handling have a greater impact on animal welfare than journey time alone (5). A maximum transport period of 12-14 hours could be a suitable alternative for long distance transport, when animals are transported straight to their final destination.

4.7.1

In the event that the proposed 12-hour rest periods in stationary vehicles are implemented, a ceiling should be set on the number of times sequences of travel times and rest periods can be repeated during a journey. In addition, for geographical reasons, flexibility should be allowed regarding the maximum travel time, since applying 12-hour rest periods in a stationary vehicle during extreme conditions (-30o or +30o) could actually reduce animal welfare by, for example, worsening air quality or lengthening travel time unreasonably. In cold conditions it may be impossible to provide effective heating and ventilation in a vehicle which is stationary for a long time. The automatic drinking water system may freeze up, etc. If a journey could be completed either as a sequence of 9 hours' travel time + 12 hours' rest + 3 hours' travel time or in a single stage of 12 hours, which would be the better alternative from the point of view of the animals?

4.8

Annex I, Chapter 7 – Space allowances. Higher minimum space allowances and the height of the compartment have a direct impact on transport costs. Further research is needed in this area in order to establish optimal space allowances. Where too few animals are transported in a given space, it is possible that they will start to fight among themselves or that they will be vulnerable to sudden movements caused by the motion of the vehicle, thus increasing the risk of injury and reducing the quality of slaughtered carcases. Minimum floor areas as set out in Tables 1, 2 and 3 (Annex I, Chapter VII, paragraphs 1.1(a) and (b) shall be provided as follows: (a) Area A1 for all transport of animals of equine, bovine, ovine, caprine and porcine species.

4.9

The provision of staging posts should not be ruled out completely. Staging posts can provide animals with a good respite during long journeys provided adequate precautions are taken to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

5.   Conclusions

5.1

The EESC thinks that the proposed Regulation will improve animal welfare during transport and enable more effective enforcement of the rules, but lead to higher transport costs which in turn may impact upon the food production chain as a whole and the economic actors involved. Before implementation, there is a need for well-substantiated economic calculations of both the upstream and downstream costs arising from the implementation of the new requirements and the potential social implications of the reform.

5.2

The Committee believes that the aim of the Regulation must be to ensure that animals are transported to their place of destination without delays by skilled animal handlers. Animal welfare is the sum of many factors and should be assessed as a whole.

5.3

Enhanced control and enforcement is desirable and the authorities must be guaranteed powers to address shortcomings in a uniform manner across Member States.

5.4

The EESC would emphasise that the provisions and changes contained in the proposal must be based on the latest scientific research on improving animal welfare. There must be a realistic assessment of the economic effects of the measures. A particular problem is posed in cases where the changes increase transport costs directly but the scientific evidence regarding the beneficial impact on animal welfare is contradictory or insufficient. Existing rules should be changed in such cases and additional information should be sought and the legislation updated only when the scientific evidence is both clear and conclusive

5.5

Differences in geographical and climatic conditions between countries may hamper the implementation of the rules. Specific regional characteristics must be taken into account where the proposed changes would, as they stand, significantly weaken the competitiveness of livestock farming in a particular region because of higher transport costs. The result could even be that production ceases altogether, which would further increase the already high susceptibility of these regions to desertification. The rules must be flexible enough to safeguard livestock farming outside livestock-intensive areas and the transport of animals to livestock markets.

5.6

Discussions should be launched as soon as possible with a view to reaching concrete agreements on the application of international transport standards on a global scale.

Brussels, 26 February 2004.

The President

of the European Economic and Social Committee

Roger BRIESCH


(1)  COM(2000) 809 final adopted on 6 December 2000.

(2)  Council resolution of 19 June 2001 on the protection of animals during transport (OJ C 273, 28.9.2001, p. 1).

(3)  European Parliament resolution of 13 November 2001 on the Commission report on the experience acquired by the Member States since the implementation of Council Directive 95/29/EC amending Directive 91/628/EEC concerning the protection of animals during transport (COM(2000) 809 - C5-0189/2001-2001/2085 (COS)) – A5-0347/2001.

(4)  Seasonal migratory movements of stock (bringing cattle up to and from alpine pastures) should also be excluded.

(5)  See the findings of the Commission funded ‘CATRA’ (CAttle TRAnsport) project, June 2003. Cf. Commission IP 03/854, 17 June 2003.