Minister attacks EU over animal transit

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WILLIAM WALDEGRAVE, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, last night attacked more than half of the European Union members for opposing agreement on laws to improve the treatment of live animals sent for slaughter.

He said that the British government - which announced new controls last week - had gone as far as it could on its own and needed support to create effective legislation.

Mr Waldegrave said at the start of talks between EU agriculture ministers in Brussels: 'We want tougher controls - but there are a number of member states, more than half, who are opposed to any progress at all.'

British regulations say that animals must be fed and watered after a maximum of 15 hours on the road, although there is no limit on the overall journey time.

EU proposals on the table last night called for a 15-hour maximum between watering times and a 22-hour maximum between feeds. Again there is no recommendation for total journey time. EU farm ministers agreed to ask veterinary experts to study ways of protecting animals during long distance transport,

Britain is backed by Germany, Belgium and Holland in pressing for an enforceable EU-wide system. The Germans would like an eight-hour maximum journey - but that would pose problems for Britain where the shortest Channel crossing can take more than two hours.

EU farm Commissioner Rene Steichen said tighter enforcement rules, not a maximum journey time, were the best way to protect animals.

In addition to EU-wide journey time limits, Mr Waldegrave wants an animal transport licensing system. But he said last night that he was 'not optimistic' about getting agreement.

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