Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), Eyes on Animals and the Animal Welfare Foundation are campaigning against long delays at the Turkish border, caused by defective paperwork and non-compliance with the country’s strict import requirements.
CIWF chief policy adviser Peter Stevenson told Global Meat News: “The prime responsibility is with exporting countries, in particular Hungary and Bulgaria, where most of the trade comes from, but Turkey also has a responsibility to a certain degree, and should set up a place where animals can be unloaded during delays. The Commission has a responsibility to make sure member states are doing things correctly.”
The European Commission’s health and consumer policy spokesperson Frederic Vincent said enforcement of animal transport rules was the responsibility of the member states, and that the Commission had informed them on the issue, with some member states having increased their checks before approving export to Turkey.
“According to EU legislation on animal protection during transport, any person organising a journey must ensure that all necessary arrangements have been made to minimise the length of the journey. This should include ensuring that all necessary documents, including health certificates and ear tags, are in order, to avoid delays at borders.
“The Commission will follow the issue closely. A visit from the Food and Veterinary Office to Bulgaria is scheduled for the first part of 2012,” he told Global Meat News.
Although pleased that the EU has recognised the need to take action, Stevenson admitted to being “disappointed” by the delay in the proceedings. “This is all terribly late. The Commission and the member states have known about this for several months and, although there is now the recognition that something needs to be done, it is all taking far too long,” he added.
CIWF had a meeting with the European Commission before Christmas, and has sent several letters outlining the details of the infringements to Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey, most of which were left unanswered. “We have had no constructive replies from any of them, and we now need urgent action,” Stevenson said.
“Ideally this trade should not be happening. I don’t think it could ever guarantee exceptional welfare conditions, but as long as it is happening, we need to make sure minimal welfare requirements are met.
“The Commission has powers to commence infringement proceedings against countries that break EU laws, but beyond these formal powers, they should at least quickly bring Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey together in an informal meeting to find solutions to these problems and make sure that Hungary and Bulgaria are absolutely clear about Turkey’s requirements.”
According to the welfare organisations, over one million animals were exported from the EU to Turkey in 2011, and 67% of the vehicles checked at the Turkish border broke EU regulations on animal welfare during transport. Severe overcrowding, insufficient headroom, inadequate ventilation and lack of water were the main problems observed.