Ever more animals are being transported in the EU in persistently sub-standard conditions. The remedy is to enforce existing rules properly, step up inspections and impose more dissuasive penalties on offenders, say MEPs in a resolution passed on Wednesday. To avoid long journeys to abattoirs, the EU should promote the use of local ones and consider an eight-hour cap on journey times, they add.

"Mahatma Gandhi said that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals. We should do everything in our power to reduce their suffering. Our call for measures to cut transport times for animals, including a concrete step towards setting an eight-hour limit for transport of animals for slaughter proves that we do care for their wellbeing", said rapporteur Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR, PL). The resolution was adopted with 555 votes in favour, 56 against, and 34 abstentions.

The numbers of animals transported within the EU rose substantially in 2005-2009, e.g. by 70%, in the case of pigs. One-third of these journeys took eight hours or more. 

More inspections and stricter sanctions

To remedy persistent animal welfare problems in transport, existing legislation in all EU member states must be properly and uniformly enforced, MEPs insist. More on-the spot inspections should be carried out and national sanctions against rule-breakers should be harmonised and made far more dissuasive, they say. 

Eight-hour limit would not suffice

Measures to restrict the time taken to transport animals to slaughter to eight hours should be considered, but geographical and science-based exceptions for certain species must be allowed, says the text. 

However, an eight-hour journey limit would not by itself suffice to improve animal welfare, which often depends more on proper vehicle equipment and on the good handling of animals, MEPs note. 

Parliament therefore calls for science-based improvements in transport conditions, including space and water allowances.

Support for local slaughterhouses

To avoid unnecessarily long-distance transport of animals, the EU should help to create short and transparent food supply chains and take measures to halt the decline of small, local abattoirs and promote local processing, MEPs add.

 Procedure:  Non-legislative resolution