Brussels, 30 October 2003
Commission proposes signing the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Animals during International Transport
The European Commission adopted a proposed Decision for the European Union to sign the revised European Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport. This international Convention will increase the requirements for the protection of transported animals both within the EU and more widely in Europe. It revises the existing Convention adopted in 1968 and introduces major improvements for animal welfare that are consistent with the recent Commission proposal on animal transport (see IP/03/1023) and existing EU legislation.
What is the Convention?
The Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Animals during International Transport lays down the general conditions for transporting animals such as the design of the transport, the health of the animals, the humane handling of the animals and veterinary controls and certificates. It also sets out special conditions for the transport of animals by road, air, sea and rail.
The first Convention was adopted in 1968. All Member States have implemented the current Convention, along with Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Iceland, Norway, Romania, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey. Several other Council of Europe members, have not signed the Convention.
In 1995 the contracting parties of the Convention decided to update it in light of new scientific knowledge and practical experience. In October 2001 the Council of Ministers of the EU gave the Commission a mandate to negotiate a revision of the Convention. These negotiations closed in June 2002.
What changes does the revised Convention make?
The revised Convention lays down essential principles on animal transport that will apply to all species. Detailed principles are set out for the most widely traded animals, such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses. More detailed rules apply to different types of transport.
A large proportion of animals carried in international transport are destined for slaughter in the country of destination. The Convention aims to restrict this traffic to carcass meat and encourage animals to be slaughtered in the country of origin.
Some of the improvements in animal welfare are also reflected in the Commission's proposal on animal transport(1). Both aim to identify the chain of who is involved in animal transport and define “who is responsible for what”. Both also introduce much stricter rules for long journeys. According to the Convention, there should be a route plan for any journey longer than 8 hours, and this should show when and where the animals will be unloaded and rested. This is similar to the Commission proposal which applies to any journey longer than 9 hours.
Why is the European Union signing the Convention?
The EU attaches great importance to a high standard of protection for transported animals, both in the EU and internationally, and this is why it will become part of the European Convention on animal transport in addition to the Member States. The signing of this Convention will be a major step towards improving the welfare of animals throughout wider Europe. The new legislation will operate in parallel with EU and national law.
The European Union is an important trader of live animals. For example, the EU imported more than 900,000 lambs, 60,000 cattle and 40,000 horses and donkeys from Romania alone in 2002.
Member States will sign and ratify the Convention in parallel with the EU. The EU's aim in signing the Convention is to accelerate this process in the Member States.
When does the Convention into force?
The Convention needs to be ratified by at least four countries before it can enter into force (the EU counts as a country for this purpose). The exact date of entry into force will be six months after the date that the fourth country officially notifies its ratification to the Council of Europe.
The text of the revised Convention will be opened for signature in Chisinau in Moldova on 6 November 2003 at the 113th Session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
(1)Proposal for a Council Regulation on the protection of animals during transport - COM(2003)425 final