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  • 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  

The EU and its member states must better enforce existing rules on protecting transported animals and penalise all offenders, Parliament said on Thursday.

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.

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.

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“Actors in the transport chain need to live up to their obligations, whether they are farmers, traders of animals, veterinarians, or transport companies. We have now made it clear to the Commission and the member states that they must do so, either by enforcing current rules properly or by looking into new policy tools to apply new technology and minimise transport times”, said rapporteur Jørn Dohrmann (ECR, DK).

“This applies to non-EU countries too. As the European Court of Justice said, the EU is responsible for animals even after they have left its territory. Therefore, either those countries ensure as high a level of protection for transported animals as we do or we should ban exports of live animals to those countries”, he added.

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.