The European Parliament is set to host a debate and vote later this month on the transport of live animals.
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The debate and vote come as the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (ANIT) has proposed a ban on the transport of pregnant animals in the last third of gestation; a maximum journey time of two hours for unweaned animals over 35 days’; and a complete ban for unweaned animals under 35 days’.

The proposals were put forward by MEPs from various EU green parties.

Commenting recently on this issue, Fianna Fáil MEP and member of the Committee on Animal Transport, Billy Kelleher, told Agriland:

“The greens have driven a ‘coach-and-four’ through the very fabric of rural Ireland with these proposals.”

Kelleher also claimed that, if Irish farmers and transporters are banned from transporting calves to mainland Europe, it will “be an attack on the principles underpinning the European Single Market”.

The Fianna Fáil MEP said he would table alternative proposals when the report came up for debate in the next full session of the European Parliament.

His recommendations, he said, relate to the loading of animals for transport to mainland Europe.

At this point, he said, there should be a “veterinary inspection for the entire journey and when the animals arrive in Cherbourg, there should be proper oversight to ensure the animals are well cared for and have a rest period before they move onwards to other countries within the European Union”.

He stressed that if Ireland is not allowed to transport calves to mainland Europe “we could end up with significant welfare issues on dairy farms across Ireland”. This could happen within a matter of years, he warned.

He noted that Ireland trades over 150,000 calves per annum and said: “In the event of us not being able to move them, very quickly that would put significant pressure on dairy farms and on the broader agricultural industry because we would have a surplus number of animals on the island itself.”

Kelleher emphasised: “This is a really important issue for both the dairy industry and the broader agricultural industry as well and I am hopeful MEPs will listen to my opinions on why this is so important.

“Farmers do need to be able to move animals that they do not need for replacement purposes, onto other farms and subsequently onto the European market.”

The Co. Cork-based MEP has proposed that, for transport of animals to the European market, calves are “28 days or older” and he proposed that the journey time is “substantially extended” from the proposed two-hour travel time.

Concluding, the Fianna Fáil MEP said “with veterinary oversight and strong regulation” the best welfare standards can be ensured for animals during transport to mainland Europe.

“In the event of there being breaches, there should be sanctions for those not upholding the highest standards for animals during transport.”

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