Meat body defends under-fire livestock trade

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

The investigation found Irish cattle covered in faeces en route to Turkey
The investigation found Irish cattle covered in faeces en route to Turkey

Related tags Animal welfare European union Beef Lamb Livestock Pork Poultry

A European meat body has defended animal exporters, claiming an investigation into brutal treatment of EU livestock in the Middle East does not represent the sector’s daily reality.

The European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) has moved to defend the industry after an investigation by three animal welfare bodies revealed livestock from eight EU countries were subjected to torture and illegal slaughter methods.

Animals International, Tierschutzbund Zürich and Eurogroup for Animals are the three groups behind the investigation.

In a press statement UECBV said it “condemns illegal and bad practices​” that occur in Europe’s meat supply chain.

After the concerned animal welfare bodies gave evidence to the European Commission on their six-month undercover investigation, the UECBV raised issues in an attempt to clean the tarnished image of EU livestock trade.

Bones of contention

  1.  EU regulation on animal welfare is among the strictest in the world and, when correctly applied, ensures excellent transport quality, and best practices at the time of slaughter.
  2. Demands to ban EU livestock exports to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) will not improve animal welfare. UECBV claim MENA markets prioritise live cattle and sheep, so South American exporters will replace EU trade. This will lead to a significant increase in journey times of livestock, so the effect of banning livestock trade will not actually benefit animal welfare. It could also lead to job losses and economic hardship for Europe.
  3. Transport conditions for EU livestock have improved in the last decade thanks to new technology, equipment, better training and enforcement of EU animal welfare legislation.
  4. Europe is a model for the world in terms of health, food safety and animal welfare. UECBV claims the livestock industry is targeted with “incessant denigration”.
  5. UECBV actively works to improve animal welfare during transport and at the time of slaughter. It has produced guidance documents to promote best practice amongst all livestock trading partners.
  6. UECBV is in favour of the European Commission and the OIE offering training in the Middle East to reinforce animal welfare standards.
  7. UECBV said it would “continue” to promote animal welfare in and outside the EU, and was happy to open dialogue to make improvements.

The triumvirate of animal welfare bodies want an EU-wide strategy to incentivise the phasing-out of all live animal trade to MENA, replacing this with exports of carcase and primal cuts. If this does not happen, the bodies have called for exports of live animals to non-EU markets banned and a government-registered vet to travel with all animals during transport.

After the three bodies provided evidence to the European Commission this week on their investigation, they issued a press statement claiming an EU inquiry is due to be set up. 

The European Commission could not confirm whether an inquiry had in fact been set up at the time of writing.

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