Brussels, 7 June 2012: The 8hours campaign was launched jointly by Animals’ Angels – an international organisation which has documented hundreds of cases of severe suffering endured by animals transported on long-distance journeys – together with Danish MEP Dan Jørgensen.
The aim of the initiative is to limit the transport of animals for the purpose of slaughter to no longer than 8 hours.

Holding signature boxes with Muriel Arnal and Christa Blanke

Holding signature boxes with Muriel Arnal and Christa Blanke (photo: Felix Kottmair/Animals’ Angels)

Since April 2011, I have been the Coordinator of the 8hours campaign, which today has reached another milestone with the recognition of EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, that the present Regulation (EC) 1/2005 cannot achieve sufficient levels of protection for animals during transport, and should therefore be reviewed.

Opinions still differ on how and when this review will take place, but this statement constitutes an important change in the position of the Commission, which until now had promoted the idea that enforcement of the present rules would have been enough to respond to the serious welfare problems still experienced by tens of millions of animals transported on European roads for slaughter or further fattening.

The signatures of 1,103,248 citizens on the 8hours petition were handed in to Commissioner Dalli this morning in Brussels in the presence of Christa Blanke, founder and president of Animals’ Angels, of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) representing all political groups, and of representatives of animal welfare NGOs from various European countries. The participants asked the European institutions to take action against the biggest problem related to live animal transport: the length of the journey. The enforcement of the existing rules is not enough, if long-distance journeys are not brought to an end.

The hand-in followed the meeting of a restricted number of MEPs and NGO representatives with Commissioner Dalli, who responded to the arguments presented by MEPs Dan Jørgensen and Carl Schlyter, by Christa Blanke and Christine Hafner of Animals’ Angels, by former FVO Principal Administrator Dr Dietrich De Frenne, and myself as Co-ordinator of the 8hours campaign. The Commissioner then received the signatures in the presence of a larger group of 8hours supporters, including MEPs and leaders of European animal welfare organisations.
Commissioner Dalli agreed with the participants that Regulation 1/2005 is not sufficient to guarantee an acceptable level of welfare for animals during transport, and announced that the Commission will propose a review of EU legislation that will include – among other things – a reduction of transport times.
The 8hours petition is not a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), because it would not have been legally possible to launch it before 1 April 2012, but it gathered the support of a greater number of citizens than required by the ECI. If the Commission decided to ignore this call, it would undermine the credibility of EU democratic instruments such as the ECI. Commissioner Dalli reassured participants and press that the message of EU citizens expressed through the petition is clear and it will not be disregarded.

Over 130 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have publicly expressed their support for 8hours, and more than 100 organisations all over Europe are supporting this campaign.

On 15 March 2012 the European Parliament adopted Written Declaration 49/2011, which “calls on the Commission and the Council to review Regulation 1/2005 to establish a maximum 8-hour limit for the journeys of animals transported for the purpose of being slaughtered”.

“Over one million citizens and the majority of their elected representatives in Europe have sent a clear message that the present Regulation is largely ineffective and needs reviewing, especially to establish a radical reduction in transport times” said Christa Blanke, founder and president of Animals’ Angels. “Any further delay in amending Regulation 1/2005 would constitute a breach of Art. 13 of the Treaty, which says that ‘the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.’ – not just the economic interests of a few, against the opinion of the majority of Europeans. We are pleased to hear that Commissioner Dalli shares our concerns, and we have offered our full support to make changes happen in the fastest possible way”.

“Citizens and Members of the European Parliament are united in demanding an urgent review of the transport Regulation. This is becoming a matter of democracy, especially when the first European Citizens’ Initiatives are being launched” said Danish MEP Dan Jørgensen. “If the voice of over 1,100,000 citizens is ignored so blatantly, the Commission and Council will have the responsibility of widening even more the gap between EU citizens and the institutions that are supposed to operate on their behalf. 8 hours is more than enough for live animal transport, the Regulation must change!”
The new publication ‘8hours is more than enough!’ is available for downloading on the 8hours website.