Germany will further restrict the transport of live animals to countries outside the EU, but without EU-wide regulation, the Agriculture Ministry’s push could remain ineffective.
Read the original German article here.
After withdrawing German veterinary certificates for cattle, sheep and goats to be slaughtered and fattened for non-EU states earlier this year, Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir announced the country would do the same for breeding from mid-2023.
“We can no longer stand by and watch animals suffer or die in agony on long journeys,” said in a statement on Friday (28 October).
The aim is to “further strengthen animal welfare during transport”, the minister said.
German ban, not enough
However, because certificates are not only issued by governments and can also be agreed upon between exporters and the destination country or trading partner, Germany’s ban will not put a complete stop to third-country exports.
This is why the German minister hopes its move will pressure other EU member states to follow suit.
“No animal is helped if national bans are circumvented by first taking animals to another member state to export them from there to third countries,” said Özdemir, adding that the European Commission must now act quickly.
His ministry explained that banning long slaughter transports is impossible for a national government under national and EU legal framework.
EU solution necessary
Animal rights activists also view an EU solution as key so as not to create gaps or loopholes in practice.
Still, they welcomed Germany’s push, with the organisation FOUR PAWS calling the step an “important sign towards Europe” and Compassion in World Farming EU Director lga Kikou praising “Germany for being at the forefront of policy efforts to protect animals during transport for some time” in a release.
But according to FOUR PAWS, the ministry did not use its full scope of action within EU law, noting that it may be legally possible to restrict the transport of live animals to third countries on a national basis if this is done “to protect the health and life of humans, animals or plants”.
The measures will likely have very little impact on farm animals at the German level due to them being easily circumvented via EU internal marker rules, added Kikou.
This is not the first time that Germany has pushed ahead on animal welfare issues, first at the national level and then calling on the entire EU to follow suit.
Just a few weeks ago, Germany joined France in calling for an EU-wide end to killing male chicks after the two countries banned the practice at the national level.
Push at the EU level
Long-distance transport of live animals has come into the spotlight after an EU Parliament committee called on member states and the Commission at the start of the year to step up their efforts in ensuring greater respect for animal welfare.
After looking into the matter for 18 months, it criticised EU animal transport rules for being outdated, misleading, and poorly enforced – and called for reform.
EU lawmakers demanded, among other things, to move away from transporting live animal and towards already slaughtered animal carcasses or genetic material, such as bovine semen.
This is a path the German ministry, too, says it wants to focus on “even more.”
More recently, in a position paper presented in July, Özdemir, together with his counterparts from Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden, called for an EU-wide ban on the long-distance transport of live animals.
EU institutions, too, are taking the matter seriously.
The Commission is currently working on a proposal to revise the current EU’s animal welfare law to align with the objectives of the EU’s flagship Farm to Fork strategy.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommended shortening the duration of live animal transports to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant germs.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]