Animals’ Angels of Germany finds EU livestock haulers come up short
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2012:
Animals’ Angels of Germany finds EU livestock haulers come up short
FRANKFURT–“Despite increased enforcement efforts, livestock transporters and organizers still do not comply with the very basic requirements of European Union legislation on the protection of animals during transport,” charged the German charity Animals’ Angels in a May 2012 document entitled Report on insufficient internal heights in long distance transports of cattle from Estonia, Hungary and Slovakia to Turkey, observed between 16th and 19th April, 2012.
Animals’ Angels of Germany is no longer associated with the U.S. charity of the same name, based in Maryland, though the Maryland charity began as an affiliate.
“Rules that aim to meet no more than the very minimum needs of the animals during transport are regularly disregarded,” Animals’ Angels of Germany continued, concluding that “authorities in the European Union member states do not have the means for enforcement able to guarantee compliance with the animal protection rules.”
Founded in 1989, Animals’ Angels of Germany has focused on livestock transport, especially within the European Union, producing many previous critical reports, but Report on insufficient internal heights in long distance transports of cattle is the first to focus on this single aspect.
“Insufficient internal height during transport is a frequent major factor causing severe animal suffering,” the report opened, explaining that “When head room is insufficient, animals are unable to stand in a comfortable and natural position for many hours and up to entire days. This means additional stress during transport that rapidly leads to exhaustion. Lack of headroom causes injuries such as bruises and abrasions, and when the internal height is insufficient the natural ventilation inside the animals’ compartments is hindered, which leads to respiratory disorders.”
Continued Animals’ Angels, “The relevant EU legislation does not contain precise figures regarding the internal heights inside the animals’ compartments, but stipulates that sufficient internal height shall be provided,” appropriate to the animals’ size and the length of the intended journey. The regulation also “requires that sufficient space shall be provided inside the animals’ compartment and at each level to ensure that there is adequate ventilation above the animals when they are in a natural standing position.”
Scarce head room typically occurs, Animals’ Angels explained, because “animal transports are usually conducted as economically as possible. Therefore, animals are loaded onto multi-deck vehicles to carry the highest number of animals possible.”
Because the EU legislation did not stipulate how much head room each livestock species might require, Animals’ Angels said, “in 2011 the EU Commission sent a clarifying letter to the chief veterinary officers of the member states,” asserting that “…the ceiling height when transporting cattleŠshould be at least 20 centimeters above the withers height of the tallest animal,” as recommended in a document entitled Scientific Opinion Concerning the Welfare of Animals during Transport, adopted by the European Food Safety Authority on December 2, 2010.
Animals’ Angels checked compliance with the EU Commission recommendations by doing “random checks at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey, at the Kapitan Andreovo/Kapikule crossing, from the evening of April 16 until the early afternoon of April 19, 2012,” the report states. “During this period of almost three days, Animals’ Angels checked eight transports in which the internal height for the transported cattle was insufficient. The countries of departure of these transports were Estonia, Hungary (five transports) and Slovakia (two transports). The transporters involved were from Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia.”
The animals had already been hauled for up to 35 hours before encountering the Animals’ Angels inspectors. An EU veterinarian responded to the lack of head room in only one of the eight cases. In that instance, Animals’ Angels reported, “The veterinarian at the border inspection post Kapitan Andreovo sent the truck back to the nearest control post to rest and feed the animals adequately and to transfer them onto two vehicles when they continued the journey.”
Many of the vehicles that Animals’ Angels inspected were on hauls of unknown duration. One had already been driving for 35 hours, and another for 15 hours.
In November 2011, five months after Animals’ Angels inspectors Silvia Meriggi and Julia Havenstein followed a randomly selected truckload of newly impregnated heifers from Austria through Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria to Turkey, Animals’ Angels called upon the European Parliament and the European Council to “limit the transport time for commercial transports of live animals to an absolute maximum of eight hours.”
The truck driver knew Meriggi and Havenstein were following him, and volunteered considerable information to them at various stops, but knowing he was under observation made little difference in the quality of care that the heifers received in transit.
Wrote Meriggi and Havenstein, “When we first observed the heifers, they had already been for at least 25 hours aboard the truck, after having been reloaded following a rest at a private stable at Bujoreni in Romania,” which was not actually an EU-approved livestock lairage, as resting facilities are called in the transport regulations.
Still five days from their destination, “The majority of the heifers were standing with their heads hanging down,” Meriggi and Havenstein observed. “Many had transparent nasal discharge. They seemed to be exhausted. Their coats were shaggy and dull, and due to the mud on the floor of the animals’ compartments their bodies were covered with their own excrement.”
The heifers’ plight worsened when “The animal transport was detained for two entire days, plus seven hours and 30 minutes, at Ankara customs,” where border agents refused to process the animals during a weekend. “The animals were not unloaded and did not receive sufficient food and water,” Meriggi and Havenstein saw. “The heifers lost a lot of weight,” especially after the delay at Ankara caused the driver to run out of hay with two days of driving left. “Their ribs became prominent and they had sunken flanks when arriving at their destination,” Meriggi and Havenstein continued. “We observed the heifers searching for blades of hay in the pool of excrement in which they stood.”
The truck had an automatic watering system for the heifers. The driver often refilled it, but the heifers also became dehydrated, Meriggi and Havenstein said.
“Even though at Bujoreni there was the possibility to clean the truck and to provide it with new bedding material, the driver did not take this opportunity,” Meriggi and Havenstein reported. “According to his own statement, his employer did not agree to spend money for new bedding material.”
Later, “With the help of a Turkish interpreter, Animals’ Angels arranged for someone to deliver food for the animals. However, the driver rejected the offer, again claiming that his boss would not pay for the food for the animals.”
“Matter of urgency”
“Already in 1996,” Animals’ Angels reported, “the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed that it was ‘particularly worried about many reports on the ill treatment of animals during international transport and on suffering caused to animals due to unnecessary waiting times at border crossings.’
“The Assembly recommended improvement ‘as a matter of urgency’ in the conditions for the international transport of livestock, in particular by reducing travel and waiting times, improving transport facilities and trucks, [providing for more reliable] watering and feeding, and by training the personnel involved. The Assembly also suggested as policy “to avoid, in general, any unnecessary transport of live animals by, for example, slaughtering animals close to their breeding places.’ Even though improving the conditions for the international transport of animals was considered ‘a matter of urgency’ in 1996, the situation has obviously not improved,” Animals’ Angels remarked.
University of Zaragoza Department of Animal Production and Food Science researchers Genaro Miranda de la Lama and Gustavo Maria in a 2010 edition of Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science published findings that road accidents are a surprisingly frequent cause of animal suffering in transport.
De la Lama and Maria identified 86 livestock trucking accidents occurring in Spain between 2000 to 2009, five of them fatal to the drivers. Twenty of the accidents killed at least one person; 41 died in all. Fifty-seven percent of the accidents involved pigs, who had a 22% mortality rate. Seventy percent of the accidents involving pigs left surviving animals wandering in the road, De la Lama and Maria reported. Thirty percent of the accidents involved cattle, whose mortality rate was 12%. Chickens were involved in 8% of the accidents; 5% involved sheep. De la Lama and Maria found that the main cause of livestock transportation accidents appeared to be driver fatigue, resulting from long working days, poorly planned routes, and high stress.
Several of these factors may have been involved when a truck hauling 400 sheep overturned on June 1, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia, hurling some of the dead and injured sheep from an overpass. At least four cars were wrecked when they hit sheep, or when flying sheep hit them.
Data collected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, reviewed in 2010 by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, documented similar problems to those observed in Europe. The CFIA found that from two million to three million animals per year die in Canada during transport, while another 11 million reach their destination diseased or injured. The current Canadian livestock transport regulations are now more than 30 years old. In June 2011 the CFIA increased to $10,000 the top fine for violations of the Canadian Health of Animals Act. Previously the fine was $4,000.