William Waldegrave, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, announced the new rules yesterday, describing them as 'tough', but the RSPCA and ferry companies rejected them, saying that they did not go far enough to safeguard livestock on journeys through Europe.
Under the new moves, hauliers would have to adhere to a code of conduct which involves supplying the Ministry with detailed plans for journeys of more than 15 hours. The plans, which must be approved by a Government vet, will have to give details of rest and watering stops for the animals at special staging posts across the continent.
Legislation will also be introduced to create a new criminal offence of submitting a false journey plan. Breaches can be punished by fines of pounds 5,000 or, where 10 or more animals are involved, pounds 1,000 per animal per offence or one month in prison per offence.
Mr Waldegrave said: 'The new controls . . . give ferry companies the assurances they need that there is an enforceable regime in place.' Ferry companies and animal welfare groups said acting without full European co-operation was pointless. Peter Davies, director general of the RSPCA, welcomed the idea of new legislation, but said: 'The idea of a code of practice does not meet RSPCA requirements. The only way to ensure the welfare of animals in transit is to introduce tough European legislation which can be properly enforced.'
P & O, which will stop carrying animals for slaughter on 1 October, said it would review its decision only 'if properly enforceable legislation is enacted'. It agreed that only EU legislation could ensure proper safeguards for animals.
Stena Ferries said its ban would stay: 'We will not change anything until customers who lobbied us to stop carrying animals for slaughter tell us they are happy for us to continue. We don't think these proposals will make them do that.'
Brittany Ferries said its policy of carrying only animals that did not face immediate slaughter would stay in place. It only carries animals destined for no further than central France.
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