Stock transport rules – Britain for quick start?
By Peter Bullen
BRITAIN may introduce the EUs new live transport rules before other member states.
No changes need to take place until Dec 31, 1996, when the EU-wide system of maximum journey times, licensing of hauliers and compulsory plans for longer journeys come into force.
The full regulations entailing the use of better vehicles for journeys over eight hours do not come in until the end of 1997. However, the agreement reached by EU farm ministers last week allows member states to introduce higher standards earlier if they wish.
In the UK farm minister William Waldegrave is considering speeding up the process. Much will depend on the pressures exerted by the welfare lobby set against the practical and economic difficulties hauliers will face converting lorries for use on journeys exceeding the basic eight hour maximum.
To ensure hauliers keep to the rules member states will have power to take away their licences, temporarily or permanently. Each country will be expected to make regular checks on consignments and the EU will itself be making checks on member states to ensure they are applying the rules.
At present only one of the commissions 28 welfare inspectors is involved on checking transport but 12 new inspectors are to be recruited.
Whitehall rejects animal welfarists criticisms that the EU agreement has achieved little of substance. Officials point out that for the first time the EU is adopting a common maximum travel time and a minimum 24 hour rest period. It is introducing the concept of specially equipped animal transporters plus a Community-wide licensing scheme for hauliers with a system for checking and punishing cowboy operators.
In detail the directive lays down an eight hour maximum journey time for movements in ordinary lorries. For longer journeys the lorries will have to have sufficient straw bedding, feed for the entire journey (and water for pigs) and means of connecting to a water supply during stops. There will have to be direct access to the animals which must be separated by movable partitions. Ventilation must be capable of adjustment in line with temperatures inside and outside the lorry.
Providing these conditions are met, piglets, and calves and lambs still on a milk diet, can be carried for nine hours with a minimum one hour rest for watering (and feeding if necessary). They can then travel another nine hours before a minimum 24 hours rest.
Adult cattle and sheep can travel 14 hours and have the same one-hour rest before travelling another 14 hours and then 24 hours rest. Pigs can travel for 24 hours before resting for 24 hours.
During each 24 hours rest the animals must be unloaded, fed and watered and their fitness for further travel checked by vets.
Time spent by animals carried in lorries for short sea crossings will be treated as part of the road journey time. But hauliers can opt to rest the animals for 12 hours on docking before starting a new journey period.
However, time spent by animals unloaded from lorries and carried in pens on ships subject to the same higher welfare conditions as longer-journey lorries will be classed as a rest period.
Some relaxation of the rules may be allowed for remote areas like the Scottish islands.