20. February 2016

EU Commission and Member States tolerate systematic law-violations

EU animal exports to third countries
TSB Zürich and AWF call for an export ban on live animals

Zürich, Frankfurt 900,000 sheep, 850,000 cattle and 5,000 goats were exported from the EU to Turkey in the period from 2010 to 2015. For 2016 the EU expects a further increase of the exports. Tierschutzbund Zürich, the Animal Welfare Foundation (Germany), and  Eyes on Animals (Netherlands) have conducted animal transport inspections at the Turkish border crossing Kapikule during this period. The result of this first long-term study describes serious shortcomings. 70 % of the inspected animal transporters are in breach of EU animal transport regulation 1/2005. The EU stands by inactive while the Member States approve this systematic animal abuse.

The results of animal transport inspections at the Turkish border in Kapikule are summarized in a 1000-page document. A total of 352 animal transporters were inspected, 247 of which were found to have committed one or several infringements against EU animal transport regulations. “These are no random incidents of individual transport companies, but rather systematic violations. None of the 13 EU countries from which the animals come has a clean record”, criticises Iris Baumgärtner, Project Manager from Eyes on Animals, and argues that „the EU is aware of this serious problem but simply watches on as Member States follow the political will of their governments to free their internal markets of surplus animals”.

After an export increase of 39 % in 2015 over 2014, the EU expects for 2016 a further increase of animal exports to Turkey. “Our five-year-investigation gives no evidence that any concrete measures have been taken to create an infrastructure for this trade“, notes Iris Baumgärtner. “Thus, for example, there are no stables for unloading and feeding the animals. After crossing the border, the EU does not have the competence to check the animal trucks and to sanction violators in the case of infractions. The EU sits on the side-line as if completely powerless, but in reality the EU could stop this trade.

These animal welfare organisations reproach the EU and the Member States for tolerating and dispatching the torturous transports despite systematic law violations, out of economic interests. “The trade is intentional and the dire consequences for the animals can be observed every day on these long-distance transports across the EU external border”, complains Iris Baumgärtner. Violations of the driving-time limits, unrealistic time planning, false declarations regarding rest stops, extreme temperatures, lack of supply with water and feed, overloading with too many animals, insufficient headroom, missing bedding and insufficiently trained drivers are at the origin of these torturous transports. Injured, dying, sick and birthing animals are left to their own fate. Dead animals often remain on board the trucks until the place of destination.”

In 2015 the European Court of Justice delivered the verdict that the EU animal transport regulation is valid and has to be obeyed by transporters from the place of departure until the place of final destination, even if it is located in a non-EU country. “This transport practice is not only a systematic violation against  EU animal transport regulation 1/2005, but also against Article 13 of the Treaty of Lisbon, according to which the welfare requirements of animals as sentient beings are to be fully respected”, says Iris Baumgärtner in summarizing the results of the long-term study.

The reasoning behind these transports is the interest of the EU to relieve the domestic farm-animal market in order to keep prices stable. After years of negotiations, the EU finally convinced Turkey in 2010 to start buying EU animals.  

“We call for a ban on long-distance animal transport from the EU to Turkey. None among the EU Commission, the Member States, the Turkish authorities nor the exporters and importers is willing to ensure that such transports are carried out in conformity with the law”, explain the involved animal welfare organisations.