Press release: European Commission receives petition calling for end to long distance transport of animals

A coalition of Animal Welfare groups headed by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) handed over 150,000 signatures to the European Union Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou.

Petition signatories are calling on the European Commission to end the unnecessary suffering of millions of animals being transported across long distances in Europe. (See footnote 1 for extracts from the Commissioner’s statement in response.)

The petitions, collected through the Handle with Care campaign since its launch a year ago (Footnote 2), were handed over by Leah Garcés, WSPA’s Director of Programmes, on behalf of the coalition, along with representatives from Eurogroup and World Horse Welfare.
The Handle with Care coalition is proposing a revision of the current Regulation to introduce short finite journey limits. The campaign also urges the European Commission to take stronger action against those Member States that fail to enforce Regulation (EC) No 1/2005; this regulation introduced some much-needed welfare improvements, such as single partitions on the transport of horses and guidelines on stocking densities, however, finite journey times were not introduced, which is key to safeguarding welfare. Worse, as campaigners pointed out to the Health Commissioner, a lack of enforcement means that many EU Member States routinely flout the Regulation. (Footnote 3)

“The Handle with Care Coalition has discovered that horses are being forced to travel for up to 36 hours between Spain and Italy without stopping for water or rest. We saw many injuries, and most horses were suffering from dehydration and stress,” said Leah Garcés, Director of Programmes for WSPA. “This cruelty could easily be avoided by humanely slaughtering the animals close to the point of origin, and shipping the meat products across to the point of sale.”

A total of 152,557 people from 21 countries have signed the petition ‘Stop Long Distance Transport of Animals for Slaughter’.

Notes to Editors

(1) Extracts from Commissioner Vassiliou’s speech: 

  • The Commission is well aware of the problems of animal suffering and non-compliance identified by NGOs and the FVO (footnote 1), and shares the view of the petitioners that the correct implementation of Community legislation on animal transport is a priority.

  • The Commission is aware that the long distance transport of animals for commercial purposes may cause serious suffering to animals. I am appalled by the images of such suffering that have been brought to my attention.

  • The FVO calls Member States to account if they identify failings during their inspections. And if Member States systematically fail to ensure the correct implementation of EU legislation the Commission can take infringement proceedings. We can also work on improving the legislation where necessary.  

  • The ultimate aim is to ensure better enforcement of EU legislation and to better protect the health and welfare of the animals concerned.

  • I have made a commitment that the Commission would consider the possibility, before the end of this mandate, to review certain elements of the current Regulation that make its proper enforcement difficult and are not in line with scientific advice, like travel times and space allowances.

  • My services have been assessing the possible social and economic impacts of different options for a possible revision, including maximum travelling times for animals intended for slaughter. This analysis will help to determine in practical terms how such rules could affect animal welfare, transport operators, consumers or administrations in the European Union.

  • It is also important to take advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies. The Commission is convinced that the development of intelligent, integrated systems for satellite navigation to trace animal transport movements will enhance the enforcement of the legislation and decrease administrative burdens.

  • I have asked my services to make progress on this issue as a priority so that the Commission is in a position to take a decision on this issue in the coming months.

(2) The Handle with Care is a coalition of leading animal welfare organisations from around the world who are calling on governments to end the cruel and unnecessary long distant transport of animals for slaughter.

The internationally recognised organisations that have come together for this campaign are led by WSPA and includes CIWF, RSPCA, RSPCA Australia, Dyrenes Beskyttelse (Danish SPCA), World Horse Welfare, Humane Society International, and Eurogroup for Animals. Please see

(3) For full details concerning the Regulation (EC) No 1/2005, please visit:

For further information, please contact:
Brigitte Scheffer, International Media Manager, WSPA: +44 (0) 20 7587 5014

Liesbet Dendas, Information Officer, Eurogroup for Animals: +32 2740 0890

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