Animal Welfare in the EU Apr03

Farms across Suffolk and Essex could soon be blighted by the sight of dead cattle under Government plans to implement a new law from Brussels on the disposal of animal carcasses, which comes into force 30 April.


Under the proposals, farmers will be banned from burying dead cattle, sheep and pigs on their land, as has always been normal practice, and instead will be forced to pay up to 50 per pig, cow or sheep to have them collected and incinerated. 


The East of England has the largest percentage of pig and poultry farmers in the country, yet no incinerators have been set up in the area to cope with the thousands of carcasses that will have to be disposed of each year.


In other European Union member states, government-funded collection schemes are in operation, but the British Government has so far refused to pay for its introduction here. With only four weeks left before the ban is introduced, I think it is highly unlikely that special collection vehicles will be available to pick up odd carcasses from rural areas. As these carcasses are likely to remain unburied for weeks, this could cause considerable health risks.


This is yet another example of our own Labour Government signing up to EU legislation without giving proper thought to its implementation. The farming industry approached the Government over 18 months ago, but no plan has been drawn up.  We now face the prospect of a repeat of the fridge mountain saga - only this time it will be much more unpleasant. Your Conservative MEPs are continuing to lobby the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs in London to help with the expense of disposal so that farmers will not be burdened with additional costs.


Animal welfare is also high on the Conservatives' agenda at the European Parliament. Recently, we tabled a formal resolution calling for urgent and decisive action on long-distance transport of live animals. This follows the news that pigs were recently kept in a truck for 90 hours on a journey from Holland to Greece while in Poland, horses have suffered journeys of five days without rest, food or water.


In 2001, we called on the Commission to enforce existing EU legislation, and also to accept our recommendation for a maximum limit of 8 hours or 500 kilometres on journeys for slaughter or further fattening. No action has been taken. We have asked for the signatures of all MEPs, from all political parties and nationalities, to get rid of these barbaric practices that have no place in the 21st century.


On a positive note, a new law passed by the European Parliament in Brussels two weeks ago means that consumers will soon have a guarantee that the tuna they buy is dolphin friendly. Thanks to a tracking and verification system, which will ensure the correct labeling of all tuna, fishermen and dealers currently using environmentally unfriendly methods will no longer be able to pass off their fish as being dolphin friendly.


Consumers in our region want to enjoy tuna in the knowledge that dolphins have not been harmed, so this system should put an end to rogue fishing and protect the dolphin population.