Live Animal Exporting to the EU: Facts and Bans

2 months ago   •   5 min read

By Silverbird Content Team

Exporting live animals is tricky, and not just for the animals forced into cramped and unsanitary shipping conditions. Merchants exporting live animals to the EU have a lot of paperwork to complete and control checks to undergo.

This is unsurprising, particularly since diseases are easily spread through such confined conditions. Moreover, millions of live animals are traded yearly between EU member states and imported from outside the EU.

It’s a multi-billion euro business. According to the European Commission's trade statistics', about €8.04 billion in live animals were imported into the EU in 2021.

Naturally, the trade of live animals is heavily regulated – particularly, through the EU’s Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES). More recently, concerns over animal welfare have prompted action by governments to regulate the transportation of live animals.

This means that global merchants exporting live animals to the EU have a lot of boxes to tick and red tape to unravel.

This article will look at exporting live animals to the EU. The regulatory bodies, the necessary paperwork required of exporters, and the future of exporting live animals to the EU.


This article at a glance

The millions of live animals exported to the EU every year are heavily regulated and monitored. Exporters have a lot of paperwork to wrap their heads around – from the TRACES system to the obligatory health certificates. More importantly, they must keep an eye on potential changes to the EU’s regulation of live animal exports to future-proof their businesses.


Live Animal Exporting to the EU: Facts

Before we dive into the regulations, let’s break down some statistics.

Considering that the EU is the biggest live animal exporter in the world, which EU countries are importing the most live animals? Moreover, which countries are exporting the most live animals to the EU?

Let’s take a closer look.

Which EU countries are importing live animals?

  1. France (1,812,573,758 €)
  2. Netherlands (1,120,909,425 €)
  3. Germany (1,005,236,930 €)
  4. Denmark (955,586,094 €)
  5. Belgium (556,987,154 €).

Which countries are exporting live animals to the EU?

  1. The United States (70,357,669 €)
  2. Iceland (17,064,673 €)
  3. Morocco (12,506,378 €)
  4. Vietnam (12,373,308 €)
  5. Switzerland (11,591,622 €)

Photo credit: https://food.ec.europa.eu/system/files/2021-09/traces_report-annual_2020_eng.pdf

Exporting live animals to the EU is a lucrative business. However, owing to criticisms by animal rights groups, it’s also a tightly monitored one.

The EU exclusively grants the entry of live animal shipments on two conditions: when proper checks and control are completed, and when the shipments are registered on the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES).

What is TRACES?

TRACES is a centralised database that records and tracks live animal consignments checked in at Border Control Posts (BCPs).

The data can be accessed by customs authorities for import control purposes. It’s important to remember that the Common Health Entry Document (CHED) issued by TRACES for live animals is CHED-A (Common Health Entry Document for Animals).

In 2020, TRACES issued 863,457 intra-EU trade health certificates. Around 3.5% were for consignments transiting in the EU before being exported.

What documents do exporters of live animals need when exporting to the EU?

Exporters from non-EU countries must comply with EU regulations. Moreover, only countries that are approved to export to the European Union can do so, and health certificates of the animals must accompany them.

Animal shipments travelling within the European Union must have the following:

  • Registered shipments on the EU’s Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES)
  • A valid health certificate signed by an official veterinarian
  • Transport authorisation
  • Certificate of competence
  • Vehicle approval certificate

The animals might be subjected to random checks when they arrive at their destination. If there is a disease outbreak, there will be additional requirements before permitting intra-EU movements of live animals.

Different types of goods have distinct Border Control Posts (BCPs), or entry points, equipped to do checks on specific items. Therefore, check beforehand which BCPs serve your live animal types.

Will there be a future ban on exporting live animals to the EU?

According to some animal welfare groups, many animals risk being starved or tortured en route.

There are no temperature controls and the animals may die from heat, overcrowding, and prolonged delays. Worse still, unweaned calves are denied milk during transport.

The shipping conditions were so poor on some ships and trucks that animals were left rolling in their excrement, infected with diseases, and left to die. The needless suffering of animals serves no one because consumers are only interested in healthy animals. Yet, these conditions persist.

This is why the EU has spearheaded attempts at regulating the exporting of live animals to the EU.

Is there a ban on exporting live animals to the EU?

The European Parliament spearheaded an inquiry into animal welfare during transportation in June 2020.

They uncovered many violations – from inadequate water and food supply and little headroom to long journey times and excessively hot or cold temperatures.

They urged the EU Commission to ramp up their efforts concerning animal welfare and recommended CCTV cameras, temperature, humidity, ammonia monitoring, and journey time limits. They also proposed a ban on transporting animals younger than 35 days, except for journeys under two hours.

The MEPs also advocated for the transport of semen and embryos instead of breeding stock, and meat and carcasses over live animals exported for slaughter. They called for the commission to present an action plan by 2023 to support these transitional measures.  

Why is this important? This could be the future of live animal export regulations.

Take New Zealand. From April 2023, New Zealand will ban all live animal exports by sea. The ban came into action after Gulf Livestock 1, en route to China from New Zealand, sank due to Typhoon Maysak. Forty-one crew members and 6,000 cattle onboard died. Even in clear weather, all export journeys are gruelling for the animals because of New Zealand’s remote location.

What are the implications for exporters of live animals?

The proposed action plan for 2023 isn’t far away.

If you plan to export your livestock to the European Union, ensure you know the European Union rules and regulations regarding live animals' import and export. Check that all animals have relevant health and import and export certifications.

When you anticipate a delay, coordinate with nearby contingency farms or animal storage at docks or airports so your livestock can rest and feed.

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Author: Syahirah Aiman
Illustration: Kate Faldina

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