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Commissioner Dalli: "Animal Transport - Focus Is On Enforcement"

SNP member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) hailed confirmation by EU Health Commissioner John Dalli that the Commission will not be bringing forward new rules on animal transport.

The Commissioner confirmed that the Commission's focus is on better enforcement of the current rules, and stricter sanctions for deliberate abuse of the existing rules across the Member States. Alyn has today predicted that we will not see any rules in this Parliament.

Mr Dalli was giving evidence to the Agriculture Committee in one of his regular appearances, in a wide-ranging discussion which updated MEPs on areas of interest in his remit. Some discussion took place over the calls by some MEPs and pressure groups for a strict 8 hour limit on animal transport. Alyn is firmly opposed to such a blanket ban, and was reassured that the Commissioner will ensure any consideration of the issue is based on firm science and an objective scientific assessment of the welfare of the animals.

On the vexed question of compliance with the EU ban on battery hens, and the upcoming ban on outdated pig stalls due to come into force on 1 January 2013, the Commissioner was more equivocal even though some progress is being made. Only 16 of the 27 Member States will be compliant with the incoming rules on pigs, and the Commission will be opening infraction proceedings immediately, as it did on those Member States who did not meet the high standards of animal welfare on hens. On the hens issue, Alyn has already called for an intra-community ban on illegal products, so was heartened to hear that the Commissioner is confident that all Member States will be compliant on this matter by the end of this year.

Speaking after the session, Alyn said:

"This was a good round the houses from the Commissioner, I'm struck as always that the Commission, far from being all knowing and all powerful, is very much dependent upon the competence and good faith of the Member States to enforce the rules we pass.

"But on animal transport, I'll eat my hat if we see any new regs in this Parliament. There simply is not time, nor appetite, nor objective need for new rules when the problem is, in fact, the lack of information and suspected poor enforcement by some Member States.

"On the problem of other Member States and the battery cage ban, I'm frustrated at the slow progress, but I'm glad at least that some progress is being made. It is simply unconscionable for our producers who have invested to reach the standards to now be undercut by imports of illegal produce. The Commission has stuck to its guns and if all Member States meet the end of the year target then I'm pleased. We'll see. I remain of the view that we should implement a total ban on all imported product which does not meet our standards. The same goes for pig and pork standards: if a Member State does not meet the standards then it should not be able to export to those EU countries that do."