EU commission set to review animal welfare legislation

EU commission set to review animal welfare legislation

An end to the horrific long-distance journeys horses endure on their way to slaughterhouses in Europe came a step closer yesterday when EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, agreed with welfare groups that the present Transport Regulation cannot adequately protect animals on long journeys and must be reviewed.

This welcome statement constitutes an important change in the position of the Commission, which until now had maintained that enforcement of the present rules would address the serious welfare problems still experienced by tens of millions of animals, including 65,000 horses, transported on European roads for slaughter or further fattening every year.

Commissioner Dalli made the statement after meetings with MEPs and animal welfare groups in Brussels at the handover of a petition signed by more than one million EU citizens calling for a maximum journey limit of 8 hours for these animals. He agreed with the participants that the Regulation is not sufficient to guarantee an acceptable level of welfare for animals during transport, and announced that the Commission will propose a review of EU legislation that will include – among other things – a reduction of transport times.

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said: “We welcome the Commission’s recognition that enforcement alone is not enough, particularly as elements of the current Transport Regulation are largely unenforceable. This is a good step in the right direction, but as always the devil will be in the detail. We will now work with the Commission, the EU Parliament, Ministers and other animal welfare groups to press for this review to commence as soon as possible, and for changes to be made immediately where the Regulation is out of line with scientific knowledge.”

Such scientific knowledge exists for horses, as reported in our most recent Dossier of Evidence highlighting the devastating impact of these long-distance journeys, and in the recommendations of scientists at the European Food Safety Authority who called in 2011 for a maximum journey limit of 12 hours for horses transported to slaughter. World Horse Welfare is pressing for a short, maximum journey limit of no more than 9-12 hours in line with current scientific evidence.

 The Council of European Ministers is currently debating whether they will recommend a review of the Transport Regulation and World Horse Welfare is urging all horse lovers in Europe to write to their Agriculture Ministers on this important issue. A quick and easy way to reach your Agriculture Minister and guidance on what to say can be found here and on the World Horse Welfare  take action pages.