Differences in the manner and speed of implementation compromise both the welfare of animals and the transport companies who follow the law.By Josefine Nedermark
EU member states do not enforce legislation on animal welfare during transport. That is the conclusion from several reports looking into the current Animal Transport Regulation from 2005. A main issue is different interpretations of the law.
The lack in enforcement can be seen when some member states do not train official inspectors sufficiently or when they do not perform regular checks and give penalties for violations. A study report on the Regulation shows that there are huge differences between member states when it comes to the progress they have made in implementing the Regulation and in how they are implementing it. For example the member states should have implemented a navigation system for long journeys to improve the quality of the control on travelling times, resting periods and to reduce the administrative burden. But most member states have not done this yet, even though they have had years.
“Different countries interpret differently or some authorities do simply not know the legislation,” explains Leif Lykke, senior researcher at the Danish Meat Research Institute.
And one of the main reasons to the lack of enforcement is different interpretations of the requirements. Therefore the European Commission often has to intervene to clarify and guide the member states.
Furthermore, the EU Strategy for Welfare of Animals 2012-2015 from the European Commission states that variations in cultural views on animal welfare plays a fundamental role when it comes to meeting the requirements of the legislation.
The complicated legislation also gives some problems to the Danish transport companies, according to Lisbet Hagelund, secretary at the Animal Department of the Danish Transport and Logistics Association.
“In some places in the Regulation we have no chance to know what to do. How can we for example know when animals are sexually mature, when this happens over a longer period of time? Subjective rules are not helping.”
According to the study report on the Regulation, the differences between Member States undermine the level playing field for operators, especially for transport companies.
“It is a huge problem that there is not as much control with competitors from other EU countries,” says Lisbet Hagelund.
According to a report from the European Commission from 2011, this can result in market distortions because the transporters who are compliant will have higher administrative costs. As an example, drivers in Denmark need a training course of five days every five years to get the certificate, while drivers in other member states only need one training course of half a day.
“Many Danish truck drivers are dissatisfied with the fact that they are in competition with some countries that go by different rules,” says Leif Lykke from the Danish Meat Research Institute.
Extend journeys to avoid fines
Another consequence of differences in enforcement is that it can have a bad effect on animal welfare if some journeys are extended just to avoid the more stringent member states, where for example the amount of a fine can be up to 10 times higher compared to the member states with the lowest penalties.
Improper enforcement can also have other severe negative impact on animal welfare. Examples of poor compliance can be transport of unfit animals, overstocking of vehicles and longer travelling times than allowed.
It is up to the competent authorities to check and approve the journey logs before long journeys. This is to ensure that they are reasonable. But often, unrealistic journey logs have been approved, which can lead to journeys that last for several hours more than allowed.
The 8hours campaign
There is an agreement about that the implementation, enforcement and violation penalties should be harmonised and improved in the different member states, but there are different opinions on how to do it.
The Danish MEP Dan Jørgensen, from the Danish Social Democrats, initiated the 8hours campaign to stop long transports for animals for slaughter, which he thinks will help harmonising the rules.
“I want to change to a maximum of 8hours transport for welfare reasons, but of course it will also make implementation and enforcement easier,” says Dan Jørgensen and continues: “A change of legislation can change problems with enforcement. The current legislation is complicated and bureaucratic.”
The MEP Stuart Agnew, from the UK Independence Party, does not believe more legislation is the way to go.
“The solution is not yet more EU legislation. The laws on transport are adequate. I see a different solution to this all together and it is not EU rules. Consumers need to say they only want meat from animals who have been well treated,” Stuart Agnew said during a debate in the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee the 29th of February this year.
Journey time not a big issue
Søren Kent Pedersen, veterinarian and project manager at the animal welfare organisation Dyrenes Beskyttelse disagrees with Stuart Agnew.
“We also think that there should be journey limits. We are supportive of the 8hours campaign. But our main goal is 8hours for all animals.”
The length of the journey is not the main problem, according to Leif Lykke. His research shows that if the conditions during transport are sufficient and there is the right equipment, then travel time is not a big issue. A study from the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at Aarhus University on effect of journey duration on animal welfare supports this.
“I have difficulty seeing the idea in the 8hours campaign. I understand that the longer you drive, the greater the risk of being involved in an accident. But a truck should just recreate a stable – and then it will not matter whether you drive for 8 hours or 80 hours,” Leif Lykke says.
He believes, that the focus should rather be on stops and high temperatures.
“That is more important than the actual length of the journey.”
A statement of intent
Leif Lykke does not think that the current EU legislation is good enough, but he would rather see changes concerning forced mechanical ventilation. He also thinks that all controlling authorities should take a course specifically on animal transport, also veterinarians. But he does not believe that will happen.
“Legislation is often a statement of intent and not complete with details – therefore it is necessary with a guide that can tell you what you should do if you want to follow the law’s intentions. This does not exist on EU level.”
Søren Kent Pedersen from Dyrenes Beskyttelse still thinks that 8hours should be the maximum limit for animal transport. But he also supports more targeted risk-based control.
“Trust is good but control is better. The control must be intensified. Right now it is ridiculously random and sporadic,” he says.