EU Plans to Side-step European Court Ruling on Live Animal Exports

02/06/2016 10:12 | Updated 02 June 2016


While claiming to have the highest standards of animal welfare in the world, the EU quietly engages in a trade of great cruelty. The EU exports over two million cattle and sheep a year to the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

A terrible trade
The long journeys from Europe by road and sea take a terrible toll on the animals. All too often the trucks carrying them to Turkey or ports in southern Europe are overcrowded, poorly ventilated and filthy. The animals become increasingly exhausted, hungry and thirsty as the long journeys wear on. Some collapse, others get injured. In the worst cases many die. For those that survive, the worst is still in store. Slaughter practices in this region are deeply troubling.

The trade is carried on in ways that breach the EU Treaty, EU law on the protection of animals during transport and internationally agreed standards on welfare at slaughter. Despite the suffering, the Commission, the exporting Member States and the traders refuse to halt these exports. The lure of profits drowns out the whimpering of terrified animals.

Game-changing judgment
Then in April 2015 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) delivered a potentially game-changing judgment. It ruled that in the case of exports to countries outside the EU, EU law on the protection of animals during transport (the Transport Regulation) continues to apply even after the animals leave the EU - it applies right through to the final destination in Turkey or the Middle East.

A year on many Member States and exporters simply ignore the ECJ ruling. However, realising that they cannot do this for ever, the EU has come up with a cynical ploy to dodge a crucial part of the ECJ judgment. It's going to change the law - it plans to scrap some of the key words in the Transport Regulation on which the ECJ based its judgment.

At present the Regulation states that before letting animals leave the EU, Official Vets at the border must "check that the animals are transported in compliance with this Regulation". The EU plans to drop these words; this will seriously weaken the Court's ruling. The EU's dictum: if you don't like what the Court says, change the law! This is stop-at-nothing, 'we don't care about animal suffering as long as the money keeps rolling in' behaviour.

The EU's attitude to this trade is shot through with such cynicism. The EU Treaty requires it, when formulating and implementing its policies on agriculture and transport, to pay "full regard to the welfare requirements of animals". The European Commission tries to get round the Treaty by saying this cruel trade is not part of the EU's agriculture policy but part of its commercial policy. But at the same time as claiming that this trade is not part of the EU's agriculture policy, the European Commission's Agriculture department boasts of the recent increase in live exports!

You can help halt the EU's plan for getting round the ECJ judgment. Please email Commissioner Andriukaitis and the leader of the European Parliament's negotiating team, Karin Kadenbach MEP (she is very sympathetic but needs to know that people want her to stand up to the Member States on this). Stress that it is vital that the proposed new Regulation on official controls drops its plan to remove the words from the Transport Regulation that require Official Vets at the border to "check that the animals are transported in compliance with this Regulation".