Scotland’s traditional livestock production is once again under threat from impractical and costly transport proposals being driven by Europe.
NFU Scotland has received a leaked copy of animal transport proposals passing through departments within the European Commission and due to be released in the coming days. The proposals include cuts to allowed journey lengths, specific restrictions on the transport of animals to abattoirs, lower stocking densities for livestock on vehicles and greater restrictions on the onward movement of animals passing through markets.
A driver behind the proposals is poor enforcement of the current regulations across Europe and NFU Scotland has slammed the attempt by the EU to address this through tighter regulations, hitting countries like Scotland, rather than policing existing arrangements across Europe.
This is the second time in as many years that European Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has attempted to drive through unnecessary transport changes and follows on from a consultation launched in July 2008. This latest development is equally alarming and unwelcome given that the current transport rules, agreed in 2005, only came into force in 2007.
NFU Scotland has set up a meeting with industry stakeholders on Friday (11 September) to discuss the proposals and how to combat them.
NFU Scotland Vice-President Nigel Miller said:
“There is absolutely no doubt that these latest Commission proposals to amend Animal Transport Regulation 1/2005 have the potential to seriously undermine Scotland’s livestock industry at a time when we are looking to stabilise and grow our cattle, sheep and pig sectors.
“The draft proposal, which advocates more stringent regulations, is a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that the current Regulation is not being properly enforced in mainland Europe. Here in Scotland, we have a record on animal welfare that we can be justifiably proud of.
“The current regulations have introduced transporter authorisations, vehicle authorisations and driver competence tests to those hauling livestock, and these will take welfare standards in Scotland to a new level. It is absolutely essential that the industry unites in opposing further regulation in this area and instead encourages Europe to put its own house in order by enforcing the existing rules.
“This issue sits with the Health department at the Commission and is not within the remit of the Commission’s agricultural department. If Commissioner Vassiliou gets her way, then many journeys within the UK would be impossible, in particular, the traditional movement of cattle and sheep from the Scottish Highlands and Islands and the necessary transportation of pigs to England. In short, these proposals wouldn’t let us operate within our own member state.
“Reducing journey length would have a huge impact on those producing cattle and sheep in our more remote areas. At the same time, cutting the numbers of stock allowed to be carried on a vehicle will drive up costs with the possibility of delivering poorer welfare conditions for those animals being transported. Even if journey length cuts are restricted to those animals going to abattoirs, then the Scottish industry’s reliance on slaughtering facilities elsewhere in the UK for cattle, sheep and pigs will be severely challenged.
“Haulage availability is already under severe pressure from driver legislation, fuel costs and new vehicle standards. Any notion of further restricting transport times, reducing stocking densities or increasing the specification needed on vehicles will only compound the current problems of livestock production in our more remote parts.
“We are alive to the dangers posed by this consultation and will sit down with industry colleagues this week to discuss the issue. We will also provide a briefing to politicians and our members in the next few days.”
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