Animal welfare problems in maritime transport: WOAH statement

Paris, 3 April 2012 – Non-governmental organisations promoting animal welfare such as the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) have advised the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) of their serious concerns about the welfare of livestock shipped from Brazil to Egypt on the vessel Gracia del Mar at the beginning of March.

The vessel had mechanical problems, resulting in suffocation and death of cattle. These animal welfare problems were exacerbated when the importing country rejected the shipment and refused for the Gracia del Mar to dock and unload the livestock transported.

“The welfare of the animals should be taken in consideration very seriously in the event of a refusal to import”, said the OIE Director General, Dr Bernard Vallat, commenting on the event.  

The OIE advises all Member Countries to comply with the international standards on livestock transport in the OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code, including chapter 7.2 “Transport by sea”.

Specific standards were already adopted by the 178 OIE Member Countries several years ago regarding the obligations of the competent authorities of any importing country. These standards establish that, in the event of a refusal to import, suitable isolation facilities should be made available by the importing country in order to allow livestock to be unloaded from a vessel and held securely, without posing a risk to the health of the animal populations of that importing country.

The OIE urges Member Countries to respect their commitments and to take steps to avoid this type of situations and underlines the importance of good coordination between the exporting and the importing country – in compliance with OIE standards – and for appropriate contingency planning.

At the forthcoming 80th annual General Session of the World Assembly of OIE Delegates (20-25 May 2012) the Director General will remind all Member Countries of the standards adopted by the OIE and the steps that can be taken to prevent this type of regrettable situation.