31 May 1996

…and EU beef ban

THE government has announced two major changes to its planned implementation of new EU animal transport rules.

Announcing the outcome of MAFFs consultation with the industry farm minister, Douglas Hogg said the proposal to introduce competence tests for hauliers had been abandoned.

And MAFFs plan to have paperwork for all animals that would accompany them from their farm of origin, through markets, and to their eventual destinations had also been ditched.

The EU transport directive was agreed last June and member states must introduce the new laws by the end of this year. The basic agreement involves a maximum eight-hour-journey time, with some variations depending on age and species of animal carried, and vehicle specification.

MAFF originally planned to introduce the rules in two phases. But Mr Hogg said this aim had now been dropped because there was nothing to be gained by bringing forward early legislation on particular aspects of the directive. Instead all measures would be introduced together by the end of the year.

Animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming, condemned the decisions and accused government of a mass climbdown. Last autumn MAFF issued reasonably tough proposals, the group said. "Now, to CIWFs horror, MAFF has decided to water down two key proposals under pressure from farmers and exporters," a statement said.

But the NFU rejected the criticism and welcomed MAFFs recognition of the problems that the original proposals would have created.

Formal training of hauliers, especially for those who had been handling stock all their working lives was not necessary, an NFU official said. But, he stressed, it still looked likely that MAFF would implement a licensing scheme for hauliers, so any infringements of the new rules could result in licence withdrawal.

And the union welcomed the governments halt on plans to have paperwork following every animal throughout its journey. "That plan would have meant vast quantities of paper being shuffled around all over the place," the official said.

He added that the NFU was still waiting to hear what alternative ways to monitor journey times MAFF was considering.

Mr Hogg said that industry discussions would continue, and that a further consultation document would be released before any final decisions on legislation were made. &#42