Report highlights EU live animal transport issues

An NGO report has looked at animal welfare issues during transport within and from the EU. Some 44m farmed animals a year are transported, including unweaned calves and lambs. The journeys from Europe can last up to three weeks.

NGOs Eurogroup for Animals and Compassion in World Farming said that inadequate and misleading official records were serving to conceal the true horror and scale of the EU’s long-distance trade in farmed animals.

The report looked into records relating to the long-distance transportation of 180,000 consignments of farmed animals within and from the EU during a 19-month period, from October 2021 to April 2023. The report claimed that:

  • More than 370,000 unweaned calves every year were deprived of nutrition during long journeys, with 300,000 unweaned lambs imported by Italy alone every year, enduring long journeys without adequate feed.
  • France, the Netherlands and Denmark had exported thousands of pigs to distant countries including Brazil, Vietnam, Thailand and Nigeria. “By exporting breeding sows that have been genetically selected for very large litters, the EU is seeding its inhumane factory farming model in other parts of the world,” claimed the NGOs. 
  • Millions of cattle and sheep every year were claimed to endure long sea journeys to the Middle East and Africa for slaughter or fattening. Vessels were said often to be in very poor condition, with animals suffering greatly from heat stress, noxious gases, motion stress and starvation.

The report claims that the EU’s journey records were incomplete, often inaccurate and vastly underestimated the length and duration of many journeys. About 60% of journeys were shown as starting at assembly centres, whereas in reality the animals could have been transported from the farm of origin for many hours prior to this. There was no requirement for this to be logged. Many transporters were said to practise “assembly centre-hopping” which avoided the requirement for animals to be given 24 hours mid-journey rest before resuming their journey, said the NGOs. 

The European Commission’s proposal on animal transport is scheduled to be published on December 6th. However, the NGOs noted that the EC had failed to publish the other proposals it had previously promised to present as part of a more comprehensive revision of the animal welfare legislation, including the ban on caged animal farming.

The NGOs have called on the EU to ban the export of live animals from the EU to non-EU countries, to switch to a trade in carcasses (or meat portions) only, and to introduce more stringent rules for the protection of the welfare of animals during intra-EU trips.

Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals, said that “the transnational nature of live exports makes it especially challenging to protect the welfare of animals, and this is why we ask for a ban on live exports to non-EU countries. A replacement with meat and carcass exports only benefit the animals but has huge economic and environmental benefits. Better measures to protect unweaned and pregnant animals must be put forward, while the misuse of assembly centres needs to be urgently addressed. The immense scale of suffering highlighted by this investigation cannot be ignored. The European Commission must come forward with a more ambitious Regulation”.