Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Ninth Report





COM(02) 504

Draft Council Directive amending Directive 91/68/EEC as regards reinforcement of controls on movements of ovine and caprine animals (sheep and goats).

Legal base:

Article 37EC; consultation; qualified majority voting


Document originated:

12 September 2002

Deposited in Parliament:

30 September 2002


Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Basis of consideration:

EM of 10 October 2002

Previous Committee Report:


To be discussed in Council:

As soon as possible

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:




    1. Rules governing intra-Community trade in cattle and pigs were first introduced in Council Directive 64/432/EEC,[59] and similar measures were subsequently enacted for sheep and goats in Council Directive 91/68/EEC.[60] However, whilst amendments have since been made to the earlier Directive to take into account developments in the livestock sector, the same had not been true of the 1991 measure until last year's foot-and-mouth epidemic. Since the spread of the disease was due principally to the lack of clear clinical signs in sheep combined with their frequent movement, the Commission adopted at that time Decision 2001/327/EC[61] containing a number of specific measures to control the movement of, and trade in, sheep and goats, thus bringing these broadly into line with those for cattle and pigs.
    2. The current proposal

    3. The purpose of the present proposal is to amend Directive 91/68/EC so as to incorporate on a permanent basis the changes introduced in Commission Decision 2001/327/EC. More specifically, this would entail:

    • revising the definition of an "assembly centre" where animals are gathered together to form consignment intended for intra-Community trade;

    • updating the provisions for sheep and goats relating to identification, veterinary inspection, and health status of the holding of origin;

    • specifying that, in order to be eligible for intra-Community trade, breeding and fattening animals must be resident for 30 days prior to loading on a single holding, with no movement of sheep and goats on to the holding during the last 21 days;

    • requiring that sheep and goats may only transit one assembly centre, which must be in the Member State of origin, though sheep for slaughter would be allowed to transit an assembly centre in a transit Member State;

    • specifying that sheep and goats must not be outside their holding of origin for more than six days before they arrive at their destination (though this period would be extended by the time of a sea journey, or any time spent at a staging point[62]).

The Commission sees the overall effect of these changes as minimising the opportunity to mix consignments, thus helping to prevent the rapid spread of disease.

The Government's view

    1. In his Explanatory Memorandum of 10 October 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty) says that the UK supports the revised definition of an assembly centre, and the criteria which such centres will have to meet; the need for animals to have been on a single holding for 30 days prior to export; the requirement that (apart from slaughter sheep), sheep and goats may only transit one assembly centre; and the provision prohibiting animals from being outside their holding of origin for more than 6 days.
    2. The Minister does, however, point out:

    • that the "30 day" requirement is on the one hand more stringent than the equivalent domestic controls within Great Britain (which do not specify a residency period), but that, on the other hand, the restrictions in this country apply not only to movements on to the holding of sheep and goats, but also to other species susceptible to foot-and-mouth disease: he says that the Commission justifies its approach to this latter point on the grounds that sheep and goats are less likely to show clinical signs of foot-and-mouth, and that a multi-species standstill would cause major problems to the export trade;

    • that the residency and standstill provisions do not apply to slaughter sheep, on the grounds that, since they will be quickly slaughtered after export, they present minimal disease risk: nevertheless, the UK believes there is a strong argument for extending these restrictions to slaughter sheep, in that an explicit provision to this effect would help to prevent the practice of animals purchased at a market being moved onto a holding premises for a very short period, simply to evade the prohibition on their being exported direct from a market;

    • that, although the requirement that animals should not be outside their holding for more than six days is a health measure, it does also have welfare benefits.

    1. As regards the costs and benefits of the proposal, the Minister says that these requirements are necessary to protect the health of the Community's livestock population, and should slow down the spread of any infectious disease should another outbreak occur. He also points out that, as the proposal would make permanent existing requirements, with which exporters must already comply, there are no additional compliance costs arising from it, and that they generally accept the requirements as enabling intra-Community trade in sheep and goats to restart.
    2. Conclusion

    3. We have noted that this proposal would make permanent the additional controls for sheep and goats introduced by the Commission last year in response to the foot-and-mouth epidemic, and that it would in the process bring the controls for these species back into line with those applying to cattle and pigs. We are therefore content to clear the document.


59   OJ No. L.121, 29.7.64, p.1977. Back

60   OJ No. L.46, 19.2.91, p.19. Back

61   OJ No. L.115, 25.4.01, p.12. Back

62   Where animals are unloaded, rested, fed and watered. Back

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