A new review by the European Court of Auditors (ECA), made public on 17th April 2023, found that regional cost differences and uneven enforcement of EU animal transport rules by member states incentivise live animal transport, leading to loopholes and risks to lose adequate animal welfare standards —  which would cause more animal suffering. The review concluded that economic factors, such as slaughter costs in different member states, alongside regulatory factors, such as different penalties and sanctioning systems, are the main drivers of live animal transport. 

With some EU regions highly specialised in big animal farms, the trend in the slaughtering sector is moving toward fewer and larger slaughterhouses, which can also increase live animal transport. Over a third of live animals’ journeys in the EU are between 8 and 24 hours long, and the number is even higher for horses, cows, sheep and goats. The review also highlights that breaking the rules can financially benefit producers in some cases. It also concludes that transporting meat rather than live animals is preferable in terms of animal welfare. 

Eva Lindström, the ECA member in charge of the review, said, “Transporting live animals over long distances can have harmful consequences on their welfare. EU animal transport legislation is not evenly enforced by member states, and there is a risk that transporters could exploit loopholes that derive from the different national sanctions systems.” Andreas Manz, EU Farm Animal Policy Coordinator at the animal welfare organization FOUR PAWS, said, “The European Court of Auditors’ report confirms that things cannot continue as they are. The long-standing problems of lack of transparency, weak enforcement and constant animal welfare violations in live animal transport will continue to be systematic if the rules are not changed in the upcoming EU legislation.”

The European Commission is currently reviewing the EU animal welfare legislation within the framework of the EU’s flagship food policy, the Farm to Fork strategy. 

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.