European Union (EU) proposals on animal transport rules should protect animals, not punish farmers, says one the European Parliament’s largest political blocks, the European People’s Party (EPP).

The group’s negotiator on the final report from the Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (ANIT), Romanian MEP Daniel Buda, said “setting an absolute maximum transport time without any flexibility would punish all farmers”.

MEP Buda was speaking ahead of a full European Parliament vote on the animal transport proposals in Strasbourg on Thursday, the results of which could have a major impact on Irish farmers and exporters.

The EPP consists of 275 MEPs, a little over one third of the parliament’s membership and Ireland’s five Fine Gael MEPs are also members.

The political block has agreed to support amendments which include a specification that the transport of unweaned animals will not be permitted before they are 28 days old, rather than the 35 days in the current ANIT recommendation.

Remote areas

MEP Buda said the current ANIT proposals will affect “small family farms in remote areas with the least possibilities to compensate the loss of their income”.

However, speaking from Strasbourg, he conceded that “the work of the parliamentary inquiry committee, which looked into the protection of animals during transport, has shown that we need better transport conditions for live animals”.

"We need to improve infrastructure, promote local slaughterhouses and introduce smart rules that take different circumstances into account.”

He criticised the Green MEP proposals within the ANIT recommendations which he said will “push many farms out of business”.

Room for improvement

Buda said that the ANIT committee looked closely into transport conditions and unfortunately found lots of room for improvement.

“We must pay attention to transport temperatures and the transport of vulnerable animals. We also need faster border crossings with special lanes and expert monitoring up until the final destination. Farmers have to be helped to be able to ensure the right conditions.

"Last but not least, transport to third countries must continue, respecting the highest standards of animal welfare.”

The European Parliament vote on animal transport proposals is set to take place on Thursday morning. For live updates, see the Irish Farmers Journal online.

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