Animal transport ships in the port of Cartagena, Spain

Quo vadis, EU? UK and Australia show the way out of live animal transport

FOUR PAWS urges EU to follow-suit after two Commonwealth States put a ban on animal exports


Brussels, 15 May 2024 – Recently, Australia announced to put an end to the cruel export of sheep from 1 May 2028 onwards and the United Kingdom is about to enshrine a ban on livestock exports for slaughter or fattening into law. The European Union as a self-proclaimed forerunner in animal welfare is still the world’s biggest live animal exporter: 1.5 billion poultry and over 51 million cattle, pigs, sheep and goats are transported by the EU annually – either within the European Union or to external markets. These animals often endure unbearable conditions on long torturous journeys by sea or land with lack of food, water, extreme temperatures, high levels of stress, unhygienic conditions and infections. Many die helplessly with no access to veterinarian care. With Australia and the UK deciding for change, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS is now closely watching the upcoming European elections from 6 to 9 June and once again stresses the importance of substantial reforms in animal welfare at EU level.

In recent years, large animal-producing countries such as New Zealand have shown that with a common political will, a change and - most importantly - an improvement for billions of animals is possible. With Australia set to ban the export of sheep from 2028 and the United Kingdom deciding to ban the live exports of animals for slaughter and fattening, it is hoped that this milestone achieved by both countries will have a domino effect and motivate the European Union to work towards positive change for farm animals and stop their unnecessary suffering.

“Contrary to the high political tide of opposing voices, the courageous decision of Australia and the United Kingdom is significant. While critics of these landmark decisions speak of an industry and a market that are not ready for an export ban yet, we clearly see what is possible with political will. We need to see an end to cruel live animal export and transport at the European level too. Animals are sentient beings and both transport and slaughter in destination countries, is in vast contrast to this."

Corinna Reinisch, Programme Lead Farm Animal Welfare at FOUR PAWS

The European Union: it’s high time to end the tortures journeys of living farm animals by sea

1.5 billion poultry and 51 million cattle, pigs, sheep and goats are transported within and outside of the European Union annually by road and sea. After poultry, sheep are the EU’s most exported animals. Nearly all of the exports of these animals sent by ship, 96% are sent to the Middle East and North Africa, with the main exporters to these markets being Romania, Spain and Portugal. Not only are these journeys long and draining for the animals but they are also accompanied by frequent tragic incidents of animals suffering and dying on the ships: 

In 2019, over 14,000 sheep died miserably when the transport vessel Queen Hind capsized off the coast of Romania. In 2021, thousands of young bulls had to be euthanised after the vessels Elbeik and Karim Allah were stuck at the Mediterranean Sea for months. In the same year, 18 ships carrying live animals had to halt in the Suez Canal due to a blockage, with animals having to suffer even longer in limited unhygienic conditions than they already had to. Dying in their excrements with infested wounds, malnourished, dehydrated, stressed, no access to fresh air - these horrible incidents are only the tip of the iceberg, but they shed light on the countless animal welfare violations that happen on these vessels that head out of the European Union every day.

“We hope that this milestone achieved by Australia and the United Kingdom against unnecessary animal suffering will have a domino effect and that the European Union - the world's largest exporter of live animals - will recognise this as a call to action. FOUR PAWS urges the EU Parliament and EU Member States to amend the proposal by the European Commission on transport and to put forward a ban on live animal exports and transport by sea. The export of living, sentient beings must be replaced with the transport of carcasses, finished products and genetic material. If the EU wants to be the leader in animal welfare globally, following in Australia’s and the United Kingdom’s footsteps is now essential,” says Josef Pfabigan, CEO and President of FOUR PAWS.

Animals cannot vote, but EU citizens can

Billions of animals in the European Union suffer due to a lack of protection and a failure of the EU to act. The next European elections will be held 6 to 9 June and will have the chance to rewrite the laws to better protect animals on farms, during transport and slaughter. FOUR PAWS urges EU citizens to use their voice to help shape the future of animals in Europe and to tell candidates of the European Parliament elections that animal welfare matters, worldwide. Here you can encourage candidates to pledge to protect animals.

Pigs on a transport truck

Reforming Animal Welfare Legislation

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Michael Kellner

Michael Kellner

PR International Officer

+43 (0) 664 504 38 97

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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