E.U. Council Documents Concerns About Live Export

The capsize of the Queen Hind, courtesy of Animals International.
The capsize of the Queen Hind, courtesy of Animals International.

Published Dec 16, 2019 7:31 PM by The Maritime Executive

The E.U. Council adopted a set of conclusions on animal welfare on Monday that stress the need to improve the welfare of animals during transport over long distances.

The document notes that in 2019 the European Parliament called on the Commission and Member States to promote a shift, where possible, towards the transportation of meat or carcasses, instead of live animals. In its report on the competitiveness of European livestock producers (2018), the Commission concluded that animal welfare requirements were not critical in determining relative cost competitiveness. Other factors such as labor or feed costs played a much larger role. It notes that the E.U. has been very influential in raising awareness of animal welfare standards globally and that these efforts need to be continued.

The adopted conclusions stress the importance of including animal welfare in free trade agreements as far as possible as one of the ways to promote animal welfare globally.

Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals, said: “Council, Parliament and citizens all expect legislative actions on animal welfare this term. The Commission must now act to make sure that this shifting emphasis of both public opinion and public policy to focus more on animal welfare, as well as environmental standards and food quality, is reflected in new and improved legislation.”

Council Conclusions are a powerful tool in expressing the formal position of all Member States on topics of E.U.-level competence. Although they are not strictly binding, it is rare for the Commission not to take action in accordance with their wishes.

The E.U. came under the spotlight this year when the Palau-flagged livestock carrier Queen Hind capsized on her way from Romania to Saudi Arabia on November 24. Over 14,000 sheep died on board.

In August, investigators from the Animal Welfare Foundation and Israel Against Live Shipments filmed animal welfare issues during the transport of cattle from Lithuania to the port of Koper in Slovenia for shipment to Israel. The investigators documented a live export transit over two weeks which included a road journey of around 1,700 kilometers. On route from Lithuania, the investigators notice a leg sticking out from one of the two trucks they were monitoring and called the Road Traffic Inspection (road police) in Poland. The officials were rendered speechless by the conditions they saw inside the trucks, says Israel Against Live Shipments. 

Following numerous complaints by NGOs and members of the E.U. Parliament, the European Commission carried out an audit into the live export industry in the Croatian port of Raša during September 2018. The report, released earlier this year, revealed a range of animal welfare issues for European animals being exported to the Middle East and North Africa.

The audit revealed veterinarians supervising shipments were unable to perform tasks due to time constraints and technical ability. For example, it documents failures to inspect water, ventilation and lighting systems on board livestock carriers. It also notes that local authorities had not approved a classification society to verify the strength calculations of pen rails and decks on livestock carriers. Animal welfare organizations also gathered images and footage including an instance where a large bull was craned by one leg onto a vessel