SP Member of Parliament Van Velzen calls for effective controls on transport of cattle

10 September 2007

SP Member of Parliament Van Velzen calls for effective controls on transport of cattle

Minister of Agriculture Gerda Verburg has agreed to take checks and controls on the transport of cattle out of the hands of the sector itself. The Christian Democrat (CDA) minister made this pledge in the course of an emergency debate requested by SP Member of Parliament and animal welfare spokeswoman Krista van Velzen. “That's a start, but no reason to rest content," said Van Velzen. “Controls on the transport of live animals must be structurally improved, and not just for a short period when there happens to be a hue-and-cry about the issue. And the legislation itself needs to be stiffened up."

Krista van VelzenExcessive journey times, too many animals in one truck, wounded animals, no food or water, serious breaches of the rules, all of this adds up to a situation in which, in Van Velzen's view, abuses can no longer be treated as isolated incidents. “It's not only a question of checks and controls, but also of sanctions," she said. "If the law is being broken, action must be taken. In Denmark any breach of the rules leads to immediate withdrawal of the culprit's licence to transport animals. In the Netherlands, however, transport firms can continue to operate even after serious breaches. The government should in such cases be imposing prohibitive penalties."

Last year the Food and Commodities Authority (VWA) counted 3000 offences in relation to the procedures surrounding journey plans alone, yet in the end only eighteen cases were reported for criminal prosecution. It remains, moreover, unclear whether any of these cases led to actual convictions. “An offence must lead automatically to suspension of the driver and vehicle, as well as of their firm." Van Velzen says. .

Under current EU rules the maximum journey time for bovine animals is 29 hours, after which they must be fed, watered and allowed out into the fresh air before another 29-hour journey is permitted. As Krista van Velzen says, “All that is good for is profit maximalisation, certainly not for the animals." She describes it as "bizarre" that animals are still being transported to southern Europe for slaughter. "Why can't they be slaughtered close to home and the meat then transported in refrigerator lorries?" she demands to know.

The SP also argues that the Netherlands should be moving quickly to make compulsory the installation of a GPS system which would enable transports of animals to be monitored to ensure that approved journey plans are being adhered to. Van Velzen would also like to see addressed the problem of European subsidies which lead to extra and unnecessary transports of cattle, such as subsidies for the export of dairy cows. 'No go' days should also be introduced during which all such transports would be suspended, for example during heat waves.

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