Brussels finishes off the Spanish countryside with its animal transport standard

Brussels has set its sights on improving the welfare of the 1.6 billion animals transported each year within and from the European Union. A necessary reform – the previous regulation was approved 20 years ago – to guarantee less traumatic transportation, in accordance with what the latest scientific advances in this area dictate. The Spanish countryside agrees with this need, but differs in the standard proposed by the European Commission (EC) because, they say, penalizes Spain by not taking into account our climate and geography. An example is the imposition of limitations and prohibitions on traveling when temperatures are higher than 25ºC or 30ºC.

The application of this regulation, which was presented on December 8, 2023, would mean the closure of almost 930 farms and the destruction of 1,392 jobs in the Spanish beef sector, according to the technical report by Láinez Biotrends Strategic Consulting, commissioned by Provacuno. Added to this failure would be a loss of annual activity of 40% in more than 1,700 farms. All this would translate into a 17.2% decrease in the value of beef production in Spain. In economic terms, they would have to face a loss of close to 700 million euros compared to 2022.

A perfect storm that will once again have an impact on the consumer's pocket. «Considering all the data, it is estimated that the production cost of beef in Spain would increase by almost 11%, which would be transferred to the price in the supermarket. It is not only a blow for the sector, but for the consumer,” Matilde Moro, manager of the Spanish Association of Beef Producers (Asoprovac), the most important within the beef sector, with 2,000, explains to LA RAZÓN. partners and 70% of national production.

For her, this EC proposal is “putting the finishing touch to the current desperation” of the field, which he blames on an agrarian policy that “has been dramatic, as seen on the street.” In the case of Spanish beef, this EC has meant “a huge blow to production costs” and applying the animal transport rule as contemplated would be “disheartening.”

Strict limitations

One of the most notable changes contained in the proposal is that the cattle must be unloaded from the truck after 21 hours of travel for 1 day. The duration of the trip for suckling calves is also shortened to 19 hours (stopping for one hour every 9 hours) and animals destined for slaughter to 9 hours. The problem? «Spain is a peripheral country and dependent on exports. By shortening the duration of trips, our range of suppliers is restricted. France would have a monopoly. Therefore, we no longer have access to the European single market,” explains Moro.

According to the Provacuno report, the arrival of calves from the EU destined for slaughter in Spain would be reduced by 50%. In the case of infants, “our supply of calves would be reduced by 30%, as they come from outside France. This would fundamentally affect the farms in Aragon and Catalonia, with the closure of farms,” continues the manager. But also will affect our own internal movements from fattening areas (Galicia) to slaughter (Murcia)».

The initiative also prohibits traveling during the day if the temperature exceeds 30ºC, and establishes limiting the trip to 9 hours when it is expected that temperatures will exceed 25ºC at the departure and arrival points. For Moro, the new guidelines on temperature limits greatly penalize the Iberian Peninsula, which suffers extreme temperatures. “The regulation does not take into account that animals in Spain are raised at 30-35ºC,” says Moro. A Murcia pig is not adapted to the same conditions as a Belgian one. “This disrupts our movements and makes us dust.”

Coupled with this, the proposal establishes the minimum space that each animal must have inside the truck, based on the recommendations of the European Food Safety Authority. It represents an increase of more than 40% of the surface area in the case of beef. But, if temperatures higher than 30ºC are expected, this value increases by 20%. «It is truly outrageous. The animals are going to be very loose and, according to what the transporters tell us, there will be a welfare problem, because the animals can mount each other and injure themselves,” he points out.

A space of 40 cm above the animals' heads should also be left. «This means losing apartments. In small animal trucks, three become two. In others, two to one. “This is going to mean more truck trips,” he explains. Therefore, these measures will increase total emissions from beef production by 0.27%, according to the report.

But also, the Provacuno study states that there are no scientific arguments for these densities, as well as for other aspects of the standard. «When the EC legislates without a technical basis, there is a problem: that when it requires third countries that their meat meets the requirements, they are going to ask you where you got the figures from and they are going to report you. Without a basis, they do not have to comply with the standard. Therefore, this is worrying in terms of competitiveness », he concludes. However, the sector is not unaware that there are elections to the European Parliament in June, and it hopes for a new European Commission that can turn this proposal around.