Stock transport &market welfare set for MAFFreview
By Allan Wright
MAFF is to review the rules governing both livestock transport and the welfare of animals at markets.
Junior farm minister Elliot Morley said last July, when the EU transport laws were introduced in this country, that he intended to revisit the issue after a year to assess how the regulations were working in practice.
But Scottish NFU president George Lyon said the real reason was that EU officials had carried out various checks in the UK, had identified three areas of concern, and demanded action.
"They visited several auction markets and were unhappy that time spent there should qualify as a rest period for animals. They wanted the licensing of transport drivers to be implemented more efficiently. And they were unhappy about the 35km exemption for farm vehicles," said Mr Lyon.
"The only bright spot was that they visited the Shetland ferries and were delighted with the way farm animals were being handled," he added.
Asked what official response the union would make to a fresh government consultation, Mr Lyon said that he would be willing to discuss the issue but was convinced that the current regulations were delivering proper welfare of animals in transit.
"The concerns voiced by the EU inspectors have big implications for the auction marts and they are under enough pressure at the moment without an extra costs being added," he said.
MAFF officials met representative of 16 industry organisations in London on Tuesday for preliminary discussions.
After the meeting, John Thorley, secretary of the National Sheep Association, told FARMERS WEEKLY it was clear that animal welfare was a top government priority. He also believed that the Farmers Ferry operation, which aims to export live lambs from Britain to France, would come under scrutiny during the review.
"When a dealers ferry becomes a farmers ferry, it behoves the industry to be extremely careful about entering a trade in livestock that has attracted the attention of welfarists in the past," he said.
John Martin, secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association, said the meeting with MAFF officials was a first step towards a consultation paper which will be issued by government at the end of Sept. He said the Welfare of Animals in Markets Order of 1990 was to be reviewed at the same time. New legislation is expected early in 1999.
"We feel the present regulations are operating successfully and we would be concerned about any changes which add costs to the auction system. Any changes must be practical," he said.