New EU animal welfare rules that came into effect today will increase the cost of transportingsupplies to slaughtering and processing plants.
Among the new safeguards for animals being introduced are higher standards for vehicles and equipment, and stricter requirements for those dealing with animals in transport. Thenew EU regulation also has measures to ensure the better enforcement of EU rules, such as arequirement that transporters use satellite navigation systems to help regulators track animalsbeing transported throughout the bloc.
Under the new rules, vehicles used to transport animals for eight hours or more will have to be upgraded and officially approved.Transporters will be required to have equipment to regulate the microclimate in the vehicles, adapted for theanimal species being moved either by road or sea. The regulation also sets out stricter watering requirements.
The regulation also contains new measures to protect young animals. New born animals and females withinone week of giving birth may not be transported at all.
The new legislation extends and clarifies the chain of responsibility for the animals, to include not only transport operators but also traders, drivers, and staff at each point of the journey.Drivers and attendants of animals in transit will be subject to compulsory training. From 2008 theywill have to be certified to care for the animals.
As animals tend to experience more stress when being loaded and unloaded from vehicles, theCommission has implemented stricter rules for the handling of animals at these times. There are new requirements forloading and unloading areas.
From today, any new vehicles used for the transport of animals over eight hours must be equipped with a satellite navigation system.The measure is intended to help enforce EU rules on travel and rest times. Older trucks already in usemust install the equipment by 2009.
The regulation does not include new measures on travelling times or stocking densities, as setout under the Commission's original proposal. The measures were dropped after EU countries failedto reach agreement on the proposals. The Commission said it will bringing forward the proposals forconsideration again before the end of 2009.
In addition, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued opinions on stocking densities for animals intransport. The Commission said it will consult member states and industry before bringing forwardlegislation on the issue.
The regulation is part of a series of measures the European Commission has been putting in placeto increase animal welfare.
An Internet survey by the Commission in 2005 found that 43 per cent of the EU's citizens say they consider animal welfare when buying meat. About 75 per cent of those surveyed believe they can influence the animal welfare through what they choose to buy.
Last year the European Commission said it would propose creating a special "animal welfare" label for meat and fish products.The labelling scheme would put more responsibilities on companies to ensure they are getting their supplies from approved sources.
The proposed food label is part of a five-year EU plan to promote animal welfare. Among the proposals in the action plan, published in January 2006, is an "EU animal welfare label" for better promotion of products, such as chicken, which are produced respecting animal welfare requirements.
A clear label identifying the level of welfare applied could prove an effective marketing tool for companies and improve the information available to consumers in the EU and internationally when making purchase choices.