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EU border delays put mounting pressure on meat trade

24 March 2020

As the EU mulls possible slaughterhouse shutdowns and staffing issues as the coronavirus pandemic worsens, advocates call for restrictions on live exports.

According to reporting in The Guardian, meat supply chains could face significant strain as campaigners call for the suspension of all live animal shipments out of Europe, and restrictions to the shortest possible journeys within Europe to combat animal disease concerns.

Reporters noted queues of up to 60km at the Polish/German border on 18 March after Poland announced it was shutting its borders to foreigners. Although the closure was directed solely to human travel, cargo shipments experienced a knock-on effect, with some trucks reportedly taking 18 hours to get through border controls. Additional queues formed at the Bulgarian/Turkish border.

Sabine Fisher of German animal welfare group Animal Angels said: “One driver told us that it had taken him three hours to travel 300 metres. There were trucks of sheep, bulls, cows. I’ve never seen a queue like it.”

Under existing EU regulations, no animal should travel for more than eight hours without having a rest period. In the aftermath of the border queues, campaigners have sent a letter to the EU commission calling for the immediate suspension of live animal transport to non-EU countries and of all journeys over eight hours within the EU. They also assert that longer journeys are related to disease transmission.

The letter, signed by a number of organisations including Compassion in World Farming, Eurogroup for Animals and Animals International, said: “The potential for long distance animal transport to spread diseases, some of them zoonotic, is deeply worrying. EFSA [the European Food Safety Authority] has said that the stresses associated with handling and transport may cause latent infections to proceed to clinical disease. EFSA states: ‘such animals are more likely to infect others during the journey or after arrival at their destination and in many cases (eg salmonellosis) this will also increase the risk to public health’.”

“Farm animals are either a source or messenger of zoonotic diseases,” said Gabriel Paun of Animals International “Suspending live export and trading meat instead will ensure both food security and public health. With the current border crisis, the EU commission breaks its own transport regulations by deliberately putting animals through planned and unnecessary suffering. On top of that they expose all the animal handlers, truck drivers and others to risk.”

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