QeA to EU Commission – Animal welfare and export of live animals to third countries

Question for written answer to the Commission – Marlene Mizzi (S&D) – 30th March 2015

Subject:  Export of live animals to countries outside Europe

When EU animals are exported live to countries outside the EU they are no longer protected by European animal welfare law. Investigations by Compassion in World Farming into slaughter in the Middle East have shown that animals are beaten and tied up and have their throats stabbed and hacked at while they are fully conscious.

Can the Commission clarify what measures have been taken to protect exported animals against abuse and cruel treatment in countries outside the EU?

Is the Commission considering taking urgent action to stop this animal trade?

Answer given by Mr Andriukaitis on behalf of the Commission – 11th June 2015

The Commission is aware of the ongoing debate on issues concerning slaughterhouses in the Middle East and is taking this matter seriously.

The Commission has brought this issue to the attention of the Chief Veterinary Officers of the Member States. Furthermore, the Commission organised the first multi-beneficiary Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) workshop on welfare practices at the time of slaughter in Beirut in March 2015. The workshop aimed to address the information pointing towards serious failures by slaughterhouses in meeting international OIE guidelines and standards on welfare at the time of slaughter. Experts from the EU and other countries, including from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), presented information and shared experiences in best practice for slaughter with participants from Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt and Algeria.

The Commission is not considering banning exports of live animals. However, according to a recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (1) in case of a long journey of animals with destination in a third country, the organiser of the journey must submit to the competent authorities of the place of departure a realistic journey log which indicates that the provisions of the EU Regulation (2) on the protection of animals during transport will be complied with, including in the stages of the journey taking place outside the EU. The Commission is currently studying the judgment to assess its practical implications.

(1) Judgment in Case C-424/13 Zuchtvieh-Export

(2) Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations; OJ L 3, 5.1.2005, p. 1.

(Source: EU Parliament website)

FVO – Bovine meat in Brazil

The report describes the outcome of an audit carried out by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) in Brazil from 15 to 28 October 2013. The objectives of the audit were to evaluate the operation of controls over the production of fresh bovine meat destined for export to the European Union (EU), as well as certification procedures and to follow up the measures taken by the Brazilian authorities to address the recommendations outlined in audit report DG(SANCO)/2012-6370 – MR Final.

The FVO audit team noted that in the period 2012-2013 the Competent Authority (CA) carried out 10 % or more re-audits of the cattle holdings listed in TRACES in all approved Brazilian States. With the exception of three cases, controls carried out at the holding by the certificadoras and the CA were found to be satisfactory. However, the need to strengthen the procedures in place was identified by the FVO audit team. The Brazilian CA informed the FVO audit team that the procedure to integrate different IT applications into a single database to include animal health control, animal identification and registration, animal movement and certification, has progressed significantly.

The meat establishments visited were mainly in line with the general and specific hygiene requirements.
Deficiencies were identified by the FVO audit team in relation to the de-hiding process in three establishments, the working of sterilisers in two establishments and pest control in one establishment. The official controls in meat establishments were carried out in accordance with the relevant procedures and adequately documented. Nevertheless the deficiencies mentioned above had not been identified by the Food Business Operator (FBO) or the CA.

Ante- and post-mortem inspection, including the verification of the food chain information were carried out in accordance with the EU requirements.

In the establishments visited the procedures based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), traceability and maturation of beef were implemented and verified by the CA and were found to be satisfactory.

The microbiological testing of carcasses regarding testing methods, parameters, sampling and sampling frequencies were still not in line with the requirements laid down in Regulation (EC) No 2073/2005. The CA confirmed their position to the FVO audit team and considers their guidelines for microbiological testing of carcasses to be EU equivalent. Nevertheless the CA has not yet sent a request to DG SANCO to have their guidelines recognised as EU equivalent.

Water testing was carried out in line with the requirements of Council Directive 98/83/EC. Animal welfare controls remain as previously described. The stunning process and the controls at slaughter were satisfactory.

The certification of fresh bovine meat in the establishments visited was satisfactory. For the consignments verified by the FVO audit team, the officials were able to demonstrate that the certificate conditions were met, with the exception of one case.

The FVO audit team visited the two establishments which have been at the origin of numerous Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) alerts in 2013 due to the presence of Shigatoxin-producing E-coli (STEC) in chilled boneless beef sent to the EU. These two establishments are now under the re-enforced control procedure for their consignments entering the EU. The reaction of the Central Competent Authorities (CCA) was slow and it took more than two months for the establishments to be officially notified. An official answer from the CCA to the Commission services was only sent in October 2013. Meanwhile, the establishments had already started implementing initial actions to address the issue. As new RASFF alerts were notified, the establishments reviewed and further developed their initial action plan. The reviewed action plan has been implemented since mid-October 2013. Since then and up to the date of the on-the-spot visit, no meat produced after this date from these establishments has entered the EU.
In addition to the actions initiated by these two establishments, since 16 September 2013 the CCA is implementing a country wide monitoring programme with the aim of identifying the presence of STEC.

A number of recommendations have been made to the CA with a view to addressing the deficiencies identified during this audit.

Specifically, to consider improving procedures in order to make a proper risk evaluation of Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed alert and to react appropriately and timely to the issues identified.