Cattle gridlock: EU border delays add to coronavirus strain on meat trade

Possible slaughterhouse shutdowns and staffing issues put pressure on ‘vulnerable’ supply chains, as campaigners call for restriction of live exports


Bibi van der Zee, The Guardian (UK)

23 Mar 2020


Campaigners have called for the suspension of all live animal shipments out of Europe, and a restriction to the shortest possible journeys within Europe, over welfare and animal diseases concerns – as meat supply chains face potentially debilitating strain.


Last week queues of up to 60km (37 miles) formed at the Polish/German border on Wednesday after Poland announced that it was shutting to foreigners. Although the closure was supposed to apply solely to people, cargo experienced a knock-on effect, with some trucks reportedly taking as long as 18 hours to get through border controls. More 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 EU regulations no animal should travel for more than eight hours without being rested. Campaigners have now 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, as such journeys also raise concerns over 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.”


Meat supply fears


The border crisis has added to growing anxiety about the meat supply chain. Any shutdown of slaughterhouses could lead to supply restrictions, price rises and problems for farmers, say experts...


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