Export of live animals for slaughter: European Court rules that animal welfare laws apply outside the EU

Zuchtvieh-Export (Judgment) [2015] EUECJ C-4242/13 (23 April 2015) – read judgment

iStock_000004682690Small_CowsAnimal welfare groups and campaigners for humane farming  have welcomed the latest ruling by the European Court of Justice upholding the refusal of German authorities to allow the export of live cattle to Kazakhstan, a 7,000 km journey involving insufficient rest stops and unloading. According to Compassion in World Farming

Every year, over three million animals are exported from the European Union to non-EU countries. Hundreds of thousands are destined for countries in Russia, Turkey, The Middle East and North Africa. (Live exports from the EU)

This was a referral from German municipal authorities on just this question. It sought a ruling from the European Court of Justice (CJEU) regarding the interpretation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations.

The request was made in proceedings between Zuchtvieh-Export GmbH, the applicant in the main proceedings, and the Stadt Kempten (municipality of Kempten, Germany) regarding the decision taken by the Stadt Kempten, as the competent authority of the place of departure, to refuse clearance for a consignment of cattle to be transported by road from Kempten to Andijan (Uzbekistan).

Factual and legal background

This journey involved the transportation by two lorries of 62 cattle from Germany to Kazakhstan via Poland, Belarus and Russia, a journey approximating 7,000 km. The trip was due to last from 23 April to 2 May 2012. The only places for rest and transfer of the animals were to take place in Brest (Belarus) and Karaganda in Kazakhstan. The journey between those points was expected to take 146 hours. Although the animals were scheduled to be fed and watered between these points, they would not be unloaded. The final stage of the journey, between Karaganda and Andijan, was to take an additional 29 hours.

The Stadt Kempten authorities refused customs clearance for the consignment of cattle in question and required that the transport plans be amended in order to bring them into line with the provisions of animal transport Regulation No 1/2005.

This regulation requires that the transport of animals for slaughter should be “limited as far as possible”.

This covers not only the transport of live vertebrate animals to EU countries but to third countries as well.

The requirements are enforced by means of journey logs kept by the transporters, veterinary checks at places of departure and exit points.

The issues before the Court

The central question in the main proceedings was whether, in the case of a long journey commencing in the territory of the European Union but ending outside that territory, Regulation No 1/2005 was also applicable to stages of that journey taking place in the territory of one or more third countries.

The referring court considered that it was not sufficient for the organiser of the journey to claim that the provisions of the applicable legislation in the third countries through which the journey was to pass and the applicable international conventions in those countries would be complied with for the stages of the journey outside the European Union. This was quite clearly not the case in this instance, as section 1 of the journey log in question contained no ‘realistic’ information within the meaning of Regulation No 1/2005 because it did not mention any places of rest during the journeys between Brest and Karaganda and between Karaganda and Andijan, the final place of destination.

The haulier company submitted that approval of the journey planning under Regulation 1/2005 concerned only those stages of the journey to which that regulation was applicable, that is, within the European Union. The scheme, it argued, did not apply beyond the borders of the EU. Zuchtvieh-Export further argued that

the applicability of the rules laid down in Regulation No 1/2005 outside the territory of the European Union, … pertaining to watering and feeding intervals as well as journey times and resting periods, is unrealistic and counter-productive. In third countries there is not much hygienically and technically sound accommodation in which to rest the animals being transported, with the result that there is high risk of injury and cross-contamination.

Indeed, it claimed that in some non EU countries, such as the Russian Federation, the standard practice is to prohibit the unloading of animals at all.

The Kempten authorities countered that the absence of resting points outside the territory of the European Union did not release transporters of their obligations under Regulation No 1/2005, that the fact that the animals were not unloaded for rest periods meant that the transport compartments were not cleaned and that it was not guaranteed – or even possible – that all animals would be watered and the state of health of each animal inspected. Therefore, having regard to that regulation, according to which long journeys should be limited as far as possible, it was necessary to consider that certain journeys simply should not be carried out because it was not possible to comply with the applicable rules.

The Court’s Ruling

The Court noted, first and foremost, that the regulation in question is based on Protocol (No 33) on protection and welfare of animals, annexed to the EC Treaty, under which the Community and the Member States are to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating policies on agriculture. According to the case-law, the protection of animal welfare is a legitimate objective in the public interest, the importance of which was reflected, in particular, in the adoption by the Member States of that protocol.

It therefore followed that Regulation 1/2005 applied not only to the transport of live vertebrate animals within the EU but also to transport operations having their point of departure in the EU and their destination in a third country. The regulation refers specifically to the external dimension of that territory that such transport may entail. In that context, Article 2(i) of Regulation No 1/2005 provides a definition of the term ‘exit point’ as referring to the place where the animals leave the territory of the European Union. It is entirely within the discretion of the Member State authority to take account of the “systemic difficulties” in relation to to animal welfare in third countries before granting permission for export.

The answer to the questions referred was therefore that the relevant provisions of Regulation No 1/2005 must be interpreted as meaning that,

in order for transport involving a long journey for animals concerned which commences on the territory of the European Union and continues outside that territory to be authorised by the competent authority of the place of departure, the organiser of the journey must submit a journey log which, in the light of the arrangements for the journey as planned, is realistic and indicates that the provisions of that regulation will be complied with, including for the stages of the journey which are to take place in the territory of third countries, that authority being empowered, should that not be the case, to require changes to those arrangements to ensure compliance with those provisions throughout the journey.

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3 thoughts on “Export of live animals for slaughter: European Court rules that animal welfare laws apply outside the EU

  1. I imagine the Kazakhstani consumer might take a dim view of this foreign court imposing the rules of its own rather wealthier jurisdiction to increase the cost of living in another country. Imagine if the British legislator tried to regulate the conditions for the transit of animals between places in other EU countries!

    I know others will disagree but this is the sort of arrogant and exorbitant claim which gives the EU a bad name. It is for Belarus and Russia and Kazakhstan to regulate such matters within their own borders.

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