The animal transport regulation penalizes Spain

The draft of the new regulations for the transport of live animals has been causing a stir since it came to light in December. The agricultural sector feels once again harassed by this Commission proposal (one more of the many that have been discussed in recent years in Brussels) because, “it would mean the closure of almost 930 farms and the destruction of 1,392 jobs in the agricultural sector.” Spanish beef. To this would be added a loss of annual activity of 40% in more than 1,700 farms and a decrease of 17.2% in the value of beef production in Spain,” according to the technical report by Láinez Biotrends Strategic Consulting, commissioned by the Organization. Spanish Beef Interprofessional (Provacuno).

Every year, 1.6 billion live animals are transported within and from the EU and the current text that governs animal movements is from 2005. 20 years have passed and the consultations (livestock associations, transporters and third sector) agree that an update was necessary, but basically it is the only thing that the different parties involved agree on, since otherwise they are not too satisfied with the current draft. «Sensitivity towards animals has changed a lot and it was necessary to update the regulations. However, in general it is a patch, because technology already allows meat to be transported by carcass without the need to move live animals,” says Nuria Almirón, co-director of the UPF-Centre for Animal Ethics at Pompeu Fabra University.

And if, on the one hand, sensitivity towards animal welfare has changed, so has the industry: «In 2005 the reality was very different. Before, animal transport companies were not so large nor was there free trade in the EU. Now Spain is a power and, for example, according to data from the Netherlands Ministry of Agriculture, last year two million piglets were brought here for fattening. We see some positive change such as the fact that co-responsibility is established between the transporter and the rancher. The carrier, until now, was responsible for the animals, but the text introduces the obligation to have a veterinarian during loading and unloading to determine whether the animals are fit or not, because it was not logical for the carrier to be penalized. for this,” points out Pedro Martínez, general secretary of the Spanish Confederation of Freight Transport (CETM).

Sensitive details

The truth is that the draft appeared a few days after a report by several NGOs (Eurogroup for Animals and Compassion in World Farming) in which 180,000 shipments of farm animals are analyzed for 19 years until 2021 and in which data such as «thousands of sheep and cows are exported from the EU by road to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia on journeys lasting up to three weeks or in 2022, the EU will export around 30,000 pregnant cows, mainly to Central Asia and Western. For Matilde Moro, manager of the Spanish Association of Beef Producers (Asoprovac): «Some issues in the 2005 regulation are a bit vague and, as with everything, there are countries that implement it almost perfectly and operators that do not comply with it and They are doing unfair competition. NGOs are right to complain when there are cases in which standards are not met, but the ones we currently have are the highest in the world. You just have to punish those who fail to comply. There are operators tired of doing things well.

There are specific aspects of the law that raise blisters. The first, the temperature. If the regulation is approved, in the months in which Spain exceeds 30 degrees during the day, animals could not be transported between 10 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. “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,” Moro clarifies.

The draft also includes a maximum travel limit of 9 hours if the animals go to the slaughterhouse, and 21 hours plus 24 hours of rest and another 21 hours of travel if the destination is another, for example, a fattening farm. «That the time is limited to 9 hours may be insufficient, firstly because Spain is a peripheral country within Europe. Furthermore, in Spain the breeding points for pasture and dairy animals are in a part of the geography such as Salamanca and, however, the concentration of slaughterhouses is in Catalonia and Aragon, so this model would have to change to be within of the law,” says Juan Luis Delgado, a rancher from Salamanca and president of the Young Farmers Agrarian Association (ASAJA) in Salamanca. Transporters also do not view these new travel sections favorably: “The work-life balance of drivers has not been taken into account. If it has been estimated that the maximum journey time is 21 hours, then 24 hours of rest with a stopping point and unloading of the animals and then another 21 hours of travel, the regulation that limits driving time and rest of the animals would not be complied with. carriers. There is already a lack of drivers in general… if we add an increase in night shifts, job insecurity will increase,” says the general secretary of CETM.

However, for Nuria Almirón there is an important nuance when talking about animal welfare and that is that “in the end we end up in false dilemmas that put the weight on the workers and confront the rights of people with animal suffering,” she says.

Less density

In addition to reducing travel hours, the Commission's proposal establishes a minimum space that each animal must have, depending on weight and species. It also establishes a minimum height that must be respected between the different floors of the trucks.

In some cases, animal densities are reduced by up to 40%. «The sheep would go from being transported on three floors to being transported on only two; the calves that traveled on three floors will move to two; and heavy cattle would go from two floors to one,” says Pedro Martínez, who also assures that some fixed-floor bodies would become obsolete.

For technicians in the agricultural sector, this measure raises two other problems: the safety of the animals and the emissions from travel. «With the new spaces they can turn over and be damaged. Furthermore, these measures go against the policy of reducing CO2 emissions in transport established by the EU because if fewer animals can be transported, more trips will have to be made,” they comment from Asaja. All of this, says the meat production sector, can double sales prices. As Provacuno concludes in its report “these modifications represent an extra cost in maintenance and transportation of 137 million euros.”

We will have to see how the negotiations end because the meetings continue. Last March 1, members of the European Economic and Social Commission and representatives of the transport sector met in Brussels to exchange impressions. The agricultural sector also misses the fact that in June there are elections to the European Parliament, and expects a new European Commission that can give a twist to this proposal: «We have already warned that beef is being pushed towards a model similar to pork, integration in the hands of a few. It was an atomized sector, with a social value of establishing territory that is going to disappear. It is going to be restructured, many companies are going to close. This Commission has been a blow to production costs,” they say from Asoprovac.

Ships with black flag at sea

Animals transported by sea are outside the law. In this sense, Nuria Almirón, an expert in animal ethics, considers it a good step to try to control black flag vessels, “which make up almost half of the transport.” And a 2021 study carried out by the organizations Robin des Bois (France), AWF (Germany) and Tierschutzbund Zürich (Switzerland) concludes, for example, that the ships “are too old, 41 years on average, and drive on their majority under flags of convenience. Furthermore, only 6% of the vessels were built to transport animals and 71% passed inspection in audit companies with low or very low quality.