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Landmark live exports ruling

News Section Icon Published 24/04/2015

In a landmark case, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has said that the EU animal welfare laws on transport of livestock apply to live animals even once they have left the EU. EU rules say that after 28 hours of travel, cattle and sheep must be unloaded and given 24 hours rest as well as food and water.

Currently, most Member States do not apply the rules in this way, permitting export consignments to ignore European standards once they leave the EU. Thankfully, the ECJ ruling has made it clear that these regulations continue to apply when animals pass into non-EU countries.

A landmark case 

Our Chief Policy Advisor, Peter Stevenson, said: “This has huge ramifications for all live export journeys. The authorities of the Member States of departure have to be satisfied that the whole journey (not just the part in the EU) complies with EU law on transport.

“This ruling makes it clear that before a journey to countries outside the EU starts, the Member State of departure must ensure that the exporter will comply with EU law right through to the final destination.

“Furthermore, this ruling will require improved welfare during the EU’s horrendous live export trade to Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. We of course believe this trade should be stopped altogether.”

Why now?

The case was triggered by authorities in Germany who refused to let a company export live cattle from Germany to Uzbekistan.

The cattle transported by the German firm would have been travelling for ten days through Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, with only two opportunities for the animals to be unloaded from the vehicle and given a 24 hour rest. The journey between the two rests was planned to take 146 hours.

 What did the ECJ say?

An ECJ press release said: "the requirements relating to watering and feeding intervals and duration of journeys and resting periods also apply to those stages of the transport taking place outside the EU".

This means that Member States have the right to (and are legally obliged to) refuse to permit export journeys where the exporter is not able to give evidence that they will comply with the EU transport regulations both in the EU and beyond it. In particular, this applies to how often the animals must be rested and given food and water.  

What are we doing?

We will be lobby all Member States and the EU Commission to fully implement the law.

Peter continued “Too often EU laws on transport are ignored. This ruling requires the Member States and the European Commission to ensure these laws, designed to protect the welfare of animals, are enforced both within the EU and beyond it.”

“Sadly, these rules do not extend to cover slaughter of EU animals at the final destination. Our investigations show that European animals face slaughter in appalling and abhorrent ways once they leave the EU.”

Take action

Tell European Commissioners to  stop live exports from the EU to non-EU countries


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