Alyn Smith MEP, Scottish full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, has expressed his disappointment at today's committee vote on a non-legislative report concerning animal transport.
The vote was extremely confused, with breaches of the Parliament's rules of procedure and split votes on compromise amendments, resulting in a contradictory text on a recommendation for a possible 8 hour limit for journey times to slaughter.
This confusion marred what is otherwise a promising report, which sends a strong message to the Commission that they must "ensure an effective and uniform enforcement of existing EU legislation", with better enforcement being "central to ensuring the effectiveness and workability of the existing legislation". Any potential future rules on 8 hours would have to be mitigated by derogations for remote geographical areas such as Scotland, and would be adaptable for longer journey times depending on the scientifically proven needs of individual species.
Speaking after the vote, Alyn said:
"The committee voting session today was nothing short of embarrassing. The resulting guddle that we were left to vote on as a whole was confused and, in some places, it was even contradictory.
"I'm disappointed that the 8 hours issue has hijacked some important topics which this report highlights. We all recognise that there has been negligent and, sometimes, criminal abuse of the provisions of this Regulation: on journey times; space allowances; access to food and water; and the transport of injured animals; to name but a few issues. This report demands strong action to counter this: not only for animal welfare, but to ensure a level playing field between farmers across Europe. However, as ever, what we need to see is effective and uniform enforcement.
"I remain convinced that a blanket ban on all journeys of over 8 hours is not the correct response: it would make livestock production in remote parts of Europe difficult if not impossible. We've been promised "geographic derogations" but I'd need to get a clearer idea of what these would actually mean before supporting moves to limit journey times. I'm in favour of reducing journey times but we need to do this through altering the rules to encourage the development of a dense network of local slaughterhouses.
"Overall, my colleagues have chosen to move this debate away from the key issues of enforcement and improved technology, and towards a lightning rod issue which may win headlines but won't do anything practical to achieve what we want to achieve. That's why, with a heavy heart, I voted against the report. I can only hope that the plenary vote straightens the mess out."