ECA: Regional cost differences incentivise animal transport in the EU

Every year, billions of cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, poultry and horses are moved within the EU and beyond the bloc for breeding, fattening or slaughter as farmers and meat producers seek to exploit regional cost differences to gain profits. However, over one third of these journeys last more than eight hours and animal welfare standards are not always upheld. This raises questions about whether these standards are adequate. In a review issued today, the EU auditors highlight trends in animal transport and draw attention to the challenges EU policy-makers face, as well as opportunities they can explore in the upcoming revamp of EU rules.

Livestock production is not evenly spread across EU countries and regions, and farms tend to specialise in one species or stage of production. In addition, there is a trend towards fewer, but larger farms and slaughterhouses. Against this backdrop, farmers and meat producers aim to minimise production and slaughter costs, maximise revenues, and optimise economies of scale by exploiting cost differences between member states. These factors incentivise the transport of animals, particularly when transport costs account for a small fraction of the retail meat price. 

Transporting live animals over long distances can have harmful consequences on their welfare”, said Eva Lindström, the ECA member in charge of the review. “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.

Read the Review of The European Court of Auditors in its entirety here