Effectiveness of EU Laws
Many of those campaigning against the live export of horses
in Poland assume that entry to the EU will require far higher
standards of control and inspection of the transport of animals.
Viva!s research shows that this will not be the case
and that the EUs Transport Directive is little more
than a cynical device which allows a largely uncontrolled
trade to continue without regulation, inspection or sanctions.
In 1991, the European Directive 91/629 was introduced and
allowed animals to be transported for 24 hours without food
and water breaks. It was poorly drafted and details of rest
breaks were unclear. The result, in effect, was that animals
could be transported for unlimited time periods over unlimited
In 1995, the Directive was amended by Directive 95/29/EC,
which introduced two different sets of regulations, depending
on the standard of vehicles used for the trade and the age
and species of the animals being transported. The original
proposal to include mandatory forced ventilation was dropped,
with hauliers simply giving an undertaking that the temperature
inside the vehicles would remain with the range 5-30 deg C.
No provision was made for monitoring these undertakings.
The longest journey times are still 24 hours - for pigs,
the animals most affected by travel sickness and consequently
the worst travellers of all. Such long journey times reflect
a support for the status quo and have little to do with improving
The specification for newer vehicles, supposedly demanding
higher standards, have been so eroded that almost all existing
vehicles now meet them. Again this acceptance of the status
quo ensures that on many vehicles it is impossible to inspect
livestock because of poor vehicle design and it is equally
impossible to ensure that all the animals can be fed and watered
during rest stops.
Some agreement has been reached over conditions for loading
and unloading at staging points (lairages) but there is no
clear requirement for inspection and monitoring. Past experience
shows that where there is no monitoring, regulations are simply
ignored. On this basis it is highly likely that these requirements
will also be ignored. Research by responsible animal welfare
organisations shows this is in fact the case.
The outcome is that there is no commonly-observed law on live
transports and individual members of the EU choose which parts
of which directive they intend to observe and which they dont.
Even those parts of directives which are accepted by individual
countries and passed into national law are mostly ignored.
As virtually no independent inspection is carried out throughout
the entire EU, live exports are an uncontrolled free-for-all
and animals crossing into the EU from Poland and other countries
can expect no better welfare controls than exist in Poland.
Just as Polish laws are routinely ignored so are EU laws.
A 1996 report by the Commissions Veterinary Inspection
Office noted these failures and said that many hauliers were
operating their own code of practice independent of EU Directives
and were essentially relying on a system of self regulation.
In practice this means no regulation and this was confirmed
by the Inspection Office. It found that there was a high level
on animal suffering during transportation because the feeding
and watering interval, then set at 24 hours, was being ignored.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
(RSPCA) has stated that Considerable improvements in
legislation, implementation, monitoring and enforcement are
required if acceptable standards of welfare and a reduction
in suffering are to be achieved (32).
Compassion in World Farming has monitored the implementation
of EU law and says that it is routinely flouted. It states
that route plans are often defective, making it impossible
for authorities to ensure compliance with the laws on journey
times, rest periods and feeding and watering.
Cattle and sheep who have travelled for 29 hours are often
not unloaded and given food, water and 24 hours rest as required
Trucks being used to transport animals on very long journeys
fail to meet the vehicle standards required for journeys over
8 hours. And that sick and injured animals are frequently
transported, which is against the law.
To show the inadequacy of the EU Directive in protecting
animals, CIWF investigators followed consignments of sheep
from Britain to Italy. They found that journey times could
last for anything from 60 to over 100 hours. In one 10-day
period, they witnessed thousands of sheep being transported
from Britain to Greece via Bari in Southern Italy - a destination
to which many of Polands horses are sent.
By the time they reached the port, the animals were often
exhibiting critical signs of suffering as a result of overcrowding,
extreme heat, lack of water, proper ventilation sand the sheer
length of the journeys.
In one case, two trucks were left waiting for 48 hours in
Bari for the ferry to Greece. Throughout this time the sheep
were left on the lorry in blistering heat without water. Understandably,
after two days the animals were in an appalling condition
- exhausted, dehydrated, heat stresses and desperately panting
and gasping for air.
Only after constant pleas from the investigators to the Italian
authorities to save the animals from further suffering was
permission given for the animals to be unloaded. This relief
came far too late for many, who were already dead or dying.
Over the next few days, more sheep and lambs suffered a similar
fate. In total, 160 animals died - all of them suffering terribly
over a long period of time. The Italian authorities were simply
not interested in the problem.
Many of these reports and first hand accounts could equally
be about horses from Poland, who are just another aspect of
the cruel and unnecessary trade in living animals. The whole
of Europe is criss crossed by these long journeys. The problems
experienced in Poland - inadequate veterinary inspection,
poor quality vehicles, bad or non-existent documentation and
an absence of will to police existing laws - are European
The Directive allows for horses to be transported for up
to 24 hours plus a further two if in reach of the destination,
before a 24-hour rest for food and water. Both water and food
are also supposed to be offered every eight hours. Incredibly,
there are no regulations governing the way in which the water
should be offered nor the length of time it has to be made
available. Eye witness accounts of the failure to provide
horses adequately with water and food are now so prolific
that there is clearly a failure to meet even this fundamental
and vital requirement.
Because of the widespread reluctance of governments to introduce
adequate protection for animals in transit - and a refusal
to enforce or monitor that legislation which does exist -
the only protection animals can hope for is that concerned
people will take a moral stand and protest vigorously at this
widespread abuse of animals. The EUs acknowledgement
that farmed animals are sentient creatures must become a reality
rather than simply words on a piece of paper.
The conditions in which animals are transported demeans all
those who participate in the trade and all those who allow
it to happen in their name without protest. Legislators in
all EU countries have quite clearly placed the profits of
the livestock industry above the suffering of animals. It
is a situation which shames us all.
Available evidence shows the EU to be as undemocratic as
Poland in enforcing legislation. However, public protests
at the suffering involved has begun to shame legislators into
acting. In 2001, the EU Scientific Veterinary Committee made
a recommendation to the European Commission that animal welfare
should be improved on long-distance transports. There was
also an apparent change in fundamental attitudes with Health
Commissioner, David Byrne, saying: Long distance transport
should be the exception rather than the rule. When it is necessary,
it must take place under conditions that do not endanger the
animals or cause unnecessary suffering. This clearly
displayed an intention to curtail the trade.
At the time of writing, the proposal had still to be accepted
by EU ministers and proposed short-term improvements, which
include controls on vehicles, loading and unloading, health
checks for animals and obligatory steps to alleviate suffering
when it occurs. They would apply to horses as well as farmed
If accepted, the proposals would come into effect from December
21, 2003 and will fundamentally alter the design of trucks.
From that date they will have to be equipped with monitoring
and warning systems for humidity and temperature as well as
meeting more stringent standards for loading, unloading and
feeding animals. These fundamental necessities, which have
been avoided for a decade, would add only five per cent to
total cost of trucks.
However, the emphasis is on phasing out the trade as pressure
from public and animal welfare groups has consistently shown
that a majority of British people are opposed to the trade.
We have no means as yet of definitively assessing the mood
of Polish people but initial consultations indicate that it
is even more strongly opposed, if anything.
Legislators are increasingly aware of the publics revulsion
at long distance transport and are responding appropriately
in words if not yet action.
I want to make it absolutely clear that we are taking
the problems identified with animal transport very seriously
and that we will do everything that is in our competence to
address them. These proposals are a step in that direction,
said Commissioner Byrne.
German Farm Minister at the time of the announcement, Renate
Kuenast, increased pressure for fundamental changes in the
trade by calling on the EU to radically improve animal transport
rules. She linked the spread of foot and mouth disease with
the length and poor quality of journeys.
The Ultimate Betrayal
The transport of living horses over such long distances and
in such appalling conditions is, amongst other things, a cultural
issue. Horses are an integral part of Polish heritage and
culture and have been favoured animals throughout the countrys
history. The close relationship between horses and Polish
soldiers has always been a very special one - so much so that
traditionally, horses were always present at the funeral of
their fallen rider. On the land, they have always been seen
as hard-working helpers of farmers.
Poland has attained great respect among the countries of the
world, largely because of its strenuous efforts to build a
society founded on humane principles. The horror of live exports
strikes a serious blow against this image.
Following the implementation of the Animal Welfare Act two
years ago, there have been no noticeable improvements in the
way farmed animals are treated, especially so in the treatment
of horses who make up the live export trade.
Polands background is different to that of any other
western country. The history of the past 200 years has been
one of invasions, wars, uprisings, holocaust and totalitarianism.
Violation of human rights became commonplace and perhaps this
has been reflected in the way farmed animals were treated.
Fortunately, all that is now changing as the country prepares
for access to the EU.
There is now a legal and moral imperative to accept and implement
international standards for the treatment of animals. It is
not simply a question of laws, codes of practice and regulations,
it is also essential to take account of public opinion. It
is public opinion which has brought about improvements in
animal welfare and public opinion in the EU is still ahead
of both its legislators and the law. The people of Europe
are increasingly demanding and end to the cruel and inhumane
treatment of animals in every area and Poland must take cognisance
In Poland, the traditional differences between village and
city life and mentality is disappearing fast. In rural areas,
levels of education for young people are the same as in cities.
The younger generation is forsaking its traditional, rural
occupations, which clearly has some negative aspects. However,
moving away from traditional farming societies has altered
their traditionally low image of and respect for farmed animals.
The new young generation no longer sees farmed animals solely
as a food source. They are establishing emotional links with
animals, no longer see them merely as objects and are beginning
to embrace the language of animal rights.
These changes may rapidly increase through the introduction
of animal rights debates into high school and college education.
The Animal Welfare Act of 1997 obliges all types of Polish
schools to have classes in animal rights - but this is another
part of the Act yet to be implemented. A growing understanding
of others peoples attitudes to animals cannot
help but inform the debate which is taking place.
In Poland, eating horsemeat has traditionally been frowned
on and yet the common denominator for all horses is the slaughterhouse.
However, the unspeakable levels of pain and suffering involved
in long-distance transportation of living horse are simply
not acceptable. Young, old, healthy, sick - they are all sent
on these agonising journeys. Slaughter has become an easy
way for Poland to get rid of its surplus horses, quickly and
for a profit.
We say that Polands horses deserve better than this.
Poles owe it to their horses to respect them and to retire
them rather than subject them to these horrific journeys
to the slaughterhouse. We believe that the practice of slaughtering
pregnant mares and foals and forcibly prolonging the suffering
of sick, dying, and injured horses is, quite simply, inexcusable.
The few pounds earned from it can be seen as, literally, blood
Other First Hand Accounts
In 1997, German Police stopped a Polish horse transport lorry
which was overcrowded on a highway near Hanover. Their heads
tethered tightly to the bars of the lorry, the terrified animals
were covered with blood and their condition was so appalling
that ten had to be killed there and then by the side of the
road. The event was witnessed by Mrs. Hiltrud Schroeder, the
ex-wife of the prime minister of Lower Saxony. She stated:
I used to believe that horses were incapable of crying.
I was terribly wrong. I saw them crying with my own eyes
One of Polands best-known actors, Daniel Olbrychski,
who is a horse lover, confirmed this tale of crying horses
and told Viva! that he had seen it personally in dejected
and stressed horses on a lorry at the Polish border.
The German group, Animals Angels has tracked the horse transporters
more closely than anyone else. These accounts are unashamedly
emotional and are all the more powerful for that.
An overloaded transporter holding 70 donkeys is in
a very bad condition. As the truck approaches, we see that
one donkey has hanged itself in its tethers. Another is lying
on the ground motionless and severely injured. A team follows
the transporter and calls the police, who pull the transporter
over - only the veterinarian takes his time getting there.
The drivers are annoyed. Jürgen stands in front
of the transporter and prevents it from driving away. He stands
there for over three hours, in the middle of a cold night,
in the pouring rain - a foreigner with two overly tired and
unfriendly drivers and a load of half-dead donkeys. The veterinarian
The donkeys were initially intended for fattening and
were then supposed to be brought to the slaughterhouse in
Sardinia. They have to be unloaded. The dead donkey is no
longer on the truck. One of the severely injured animals is
lying on the floor, covered with the others' faeces. Jürgen
insists that this donkey be put to sleep. The veterinarian
tells him something about loss of value and meat prices. Jürgen
is able to convince him to put the animal out of its misery.
He determines that we must pay 500 DM for the donkey
and 150 DM for the disposal of the corpse. This is a language
that leaves no room for pain and the immeasurable suffering
of these animals. We pay. The team decides to buy freedom
for three donkeys. We are successful and cry for joy.
On the fourth Advent, three Romanian donkeys begin the journey
to their new home - the Black Forest. It's already Christmas
Pia - Animals Angels Germany
On Monday, October 11, 1999, the following died in
Nuova Valriso slaughterhouse in Caglieri, Sardinia: Ginger,
Joe, Sue, Mary, Bonnie, Clyde, Carlos, Goldie, Pia, Di, Rasta,
Ronja, Flo, Kim, Bob, Silver, Pedro, Winnie and Max. We journeyed
towards death together for five days and four and a half nights
- 108 hours. Nineteen horses that had worked hard all their
lives, that earned a living together with their owners, are
Jonathan and I gave these 19 horses names as well -
but not Lithuanian ones this time. We couldn't do it; it just
didn't seem right. These 19 beautiful, patient, loving animals
were sent to their deaths for money - by their Lithuanian
owners. And we were told there, at the start of the journey,
that this business would never be given up, that the money
was needed because there is not enough work.
They all had personalities, their own character traits
that we got to know over the course of time. There were jokers
among them and also very sad creatures who bore all of their
knowledge in their eyes. And some even had to part with their
lives simply because of their owners' stupidity. Clyde had
to die because his owner could no longer handle him. He believed
he was bad when in fact he was one of the friendliest of animals,
who always longed to be petted and gently nibbled on my fingers.
This animal death transport was supposedly run under
the best possible conditions. They wanted to prove to us that
there are no problems. Six veterinarians were present during
loading, none of them had any complaints. The drivers did
their best to transport the animals to their destination with
care. And despite all this, it was very clear even here, that
it is impossible to transport animals over such a long distance
without suffering and pain.
Heike - Animals Angels Germany
"She is up there on the ramp, over there at the Polish
border. She is a young mare. Her head is draped protectively
across two younger foals, who crowd against her anxiously.
Im standing at the gate, looking at the three of them,
filled with compassion. She notices me and comes across to
me. Why is it that, sometimes, individuals step right out
of this never-ending caravan of victims and march right into
my heart and soul?
Time is up, she has to be on her way to death. All
the others march along willingly, but she turns around and
comes back to me. The workman who has to put her aboard the
barely handle her. She is taken by the mane and pulled into
the vehicle, then she cuts loose and comes back to me again.
She is tempted with hay. Once more she comes back.
Just when they have almost succeeded in making her part of
the death transport, she turns around a fourth time and comes
towards me. Her eyes are asking: Why?
Well, why? I want to help free her from this death
march - no chance. She is neither hurt nor disabled and healthy
animals have enough stamina for this transport to the slaughterhouse.
The only salvation lies in a lack of strength. One last time
she takes flight away from the loading ramp towards me. One
last time a workman takes hold of her and manhandles her aboard
the truck. One last look from the mare's huge eyes..."
Heike - Animals Angels Germany
"There are moments for me, too, when I ask myself why
am I submitting myself to all these terrible sights while
the animal-and-meat-Mafia do whatever they please? And then
I force myself to think of all the helpless animals being
transported and I know that I simply have to carry on.
I follow every animal transport that I happen to meet
on the road. And I have often noticed that the drivers decelerate
or turn into a lay-by to have a look at who is following them.
As soon as a car accompanies an animal truck for any length
of time, the drivers know what is up.
The animals would be much worse off if it were not
us! Even if we cannot alter the animals' fate, we have to
be with them!"
Conny - Animals Angels Germany
At 2:10 p.m. my horse died. At the end I was all alone
with her, she had her head on my shoulder and we waited together.
When she was supposed to be taken to the slaughter room she
did not want to go, she was reluctant and I led her part of
the way. This look, these eyes, this fear, I will never be
able to forget it. I feel so guilty! She trusted me and I
The slaughterer felt sorry for her and for me. He was very
kind to her, he killed her so quickly that she probably barely
felt it. He gave me a strand of her mane to remember her by.
Her blood was sticking to the ends...
The poor bull with the broken hind leg also died very quickly.
I filmed both of them and feel guilty for that reason too;
they couldnt even die alone. I will never forget these
last nine days - they were the worst that I have ever experienced.
Thomas - Animals Angels Germany
The live horse export trade proceeds on the basis of illegality
and closed eyes. What drives it is the desire for profit and
a wish to earn foreign currency. The immorality and undemocratic
nature of the trade is clear for all to see. Despite the failure
of every organisation and company to comply with any of the
laws which supposedly govern the trade, prosecutions are unheard
of. This is concerted and co-ordinated, legitimised animal
The reason why there is no implementation and enforcement
of existing laws is that to do so would render the trade uneconomic.
It is allowed to continue illegally because it could not continue
legally. This is not an accusation levelled just at Poland
but at all the EU countries which participate in the trade,
in particular Belgium, France and Italy.
What is particularly disturbing is that there is no official
attempt made to monitor the trade and this important function
has been left to a few charities and animal presure groups,
operating without co-operation from the authorities, with
few resources and few staff. Transporter drivers try to shake
them off when they are followed and lairage owners refuse
to co-operate with them. It is therefore extraordinary that
between us we have uncovered such widescale abuse by tracking
and monitoring just a few of the many thousand of trucks that
ply Europe each year. If so many abuses can be found in so
few examples, its implications for the entire trade are extremely
The desire for short-term profit can never justify such extreme
cruelty to animals. We believe the majority of the Polish
people will be shocked when they realise the full extent of
the horror which befalls their horses - animals which have
served and helped people all their working lives and which
were integral to the development of humankind. How has such
a deep respect been transformed into such large-scale abuse?
We believe there is little point in amending the law or adding
new laws as they will simply remain unpoliced and ignored,
just as existing laws are ignored. We believe there is only
one effective way for the Polish people to express their disgust
at that is by calling for an immediate ban on the transport
of horses for meat.
Poland is seeking entry to the European Union and the common
standards which govern it. Accepting a more Western philosophy
of life does not necessitate accepting aggressive capitalism,
a consumer-dominated culture and the pre-eminence of transnational
corporations and the profit motive above all else. These concepts
have created enormous problems in the West, even greater problems
globally amongst impoverished nations and have to be resisted
if humanitarian care and concern are to have a place in the
countrys future. Just at the point when the profit ethos
is being imported wholesale into Poland, many people in the
West are rejecting it because it is increasingly failing our
Any system which is prepared to mistreat animals on such
a vast scale - through factory farming, production-line slaughter
and long distance transportation - will be equally willing
to exploit people.
Viva! is absolutely clear and unequivocal about its position,
which is based on simple morality and complex science. It
is a vegetarian and vegan organisation which believes that
livestock production and the preoccupation with meat-based
diets is one of the greatest problems facing the globe. Environmental
degradation, impoverishment of the developing world and human
disease in Western Europe all have roots in meat or the production
of fodder used to produce it. These commodities are now the
engine of world trade and it is no coincidence that a multinational
corporation has already set up in Poland and controls the
The outcome of industrialising animals has been the relegation
of feeling, sentient creatures to nothing more than mere commodities
- pigs which spend their entire lives confined in concrete
slums or metal crates; egg laying hens confined five to a
cage the size of microwave oven; broiler chickens, ducks,
turkeys and other poultry crammed tens of thousands to a single
shed; cattle imprisoned in filthy feed lots. The horse trade
is simply another aspect of this abuse of animals - a trade
excused by politicians, supported by vets, facilitated by
private companies and encouraged by consumers.
We call upon the Polish people to make a stand for compassion
and humanity and demand an end to this abhorrent trade in
horses as a first step. We call on them to resist the imposition
of factory farming and other forms of animal abuse as a second
step. And thirdly, we urge them to move towards a cruelty-free
way of living which does not exploit animals and which offers
hope of a sustainable future to a world in accelerating crisis.
Albert Schweitzer sums up the situation perfectly:
Nobody is allowed to close his or her eyes and to pretend
that they cannot see the suffering. Nobody can relieve themselves
of the weight of responsibility. When an animal is badly treated;
when the cry of animals dying of thirst in transports reaches
no one; when slaughterhouses are filled with so much cruelty;
when animals die in pain by unskilled hands for use in our
kitchens; when animals suffer because of ruthless people,
we all should be blamed... Respect for life requires us all
to seek opportunities to help animals in every possible way,
knowing as we do the scale of evil caused to animals by humans
Call for a Moratorium
The horse populations of Europe are at risk because of this
seemingly endless desire for animal flesh and in particular
horse meat. Until recently, the horse population of Poland
was estimated at one million. It is now believed that the
total has reduced to 500,000 as a direct result of the horse
meat trade. Most are of a working breed of horse - heavy and
chestnut in colour with flaxen manes and tails. They are truly
magnificent-looking animals, extremely hardly and a part of
Polands culture and history. The pressure on their numbers
Other East European horses which are part of the horse meat
trade enter Poland from Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Belarus
- the latter from Brest and the northern crossing. The number
of Polish horse involved is estimated at between 80,000 and
100,000 - 80 per cent of which go to Italy and 20 per cent
to France, Germany and Belgium. As soon as one source of live
horses dries up or reduces, the traders immediately seek another
The trade has devastated Greeces national breeds of
horse and has led to the call for a moratorium. Heading it
is professor Theo G. Antikas, DVM, PhD, of the Aristotelian
U Physiology Department, Secretary General of the Hellenic
Pony Club and father of the Olympic equestrian Heidi Antikatzides.
He issued a powerful demand for a complete moratorium on live
horse transports in April 2001, addressing his demands to
Anna Diamantopoulou EMP, European commissioner. He said:
As you may know, the EU has issued directives concerning
the transport of slaughter animals from as early as 1978 and
Greece is amongst the countries which signed and ratified
these directives. However, due to lack of enforcement by local
authorities, several thousands of suffering animals destined
for slaughter across Europe have been subjected to conditions
which are cruel and unacceptable by any standard. Of these
victims of man, over 100,000 horses are subjected to immoral
transport conditions by road, rail and sea so as to enter
the food chain of Europeans. With the exception of Greece
and Portugal, practically every European country slaughters
or consumes horse meat.
The decline in Europes demand for beef due to
BSE has caused an enormous rise in horse and pony exports,
which has doubled. In the UK 12,000 horses were exported in
the year 2000 alone. There has been an increase in horse meat
consumption in Belgium of 240 per cent. The total horse flesh
consumption in Belgium is now 2,400 tons, 9,400 tons in France
and 18,000 tons in Italy. In lay terms this means that 100,000
horses are being transported or slain before reaching the
tables of European horse connoisseurs.
From the 12,000 animals exported from the UK, some
New Forest, or other breeds of ponies, are sold to meat traders
for as little as $2 at auction. Greece exports sporadically
- via Igoumenitsa to Italy by ferry - over 1,000 equines annually.
Moreover, there are non-European countries such as Poland
and Romania which are the main sources of horse meat. The
Polish government has actually been promoting horse as the
healthy meat option for consumers concerned by
BSE. Poland now exports as many as 90,000 horses annually.
In addition to these sad statistics, there are unforeseen
effects on the indigenous equines of Europe, such as the near
extermination of Greek ponies due to the export trade, the
Albanian/Serbian native breeds due to warfare, the theft of
horses for meat in Italy and the easing of bans on the export
of horses for slaughter.
The sad situation described above may soon result in
the extinction of native horse breeds in parts of Europe.
Hence we urge you to help the Commission take immediate steps
to save our national inheritance. Since the Lord himself rode
a donkey once, for Christs sake (both literally and
metaphorically speaking) please help the EU to impose a three-year
moratorium on live horse export for slaughter, starting this
year (2001) and ending in 2004.
We count on your intelligence to help achieve this
goal, which honours both Greece and Europe.
Viva! supports this call for a moratorium wholeheartedly
but only as a first step to ending this shameful trade entirely.
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