Animal welfare groups seek ban on exports to Turkey
* Animals held at Turkish border, sometimes for days in blistering heat
* Insufficient water supplies leave animals desperate with thirst
* Turkey drafts new animal welfare laws as seeks EU entry
By Nigel Hunt
LONDON, July 22 (Reuters) - Animal welfare groups called on Friday for the European Union to suspend exports of live animals to Turkey, describing as "horrific" the transport conditions they uncovered in an investigation, including dehydration and blistering heat.
"We are calling for the European Commission to suspend the export of animals to Turkey as a matter of urgency in order to prevent further suffering by EU animals," said Peter Stevenson, chief policy advisor for Compassion in World Farming.
"Indeed, we believe that this inhumane and unnecessary trade should be brought to an end altogether. The long distances and high temperatures are too extreme to guarantee even the most minimal animal welfare standards," he added.
The investigation was carried out by Eyes on Animals, the Animal Welfare Foundation and Compassion in World Farming and looked in to the export of bulls, pregnant heifers and sheep from a number of EU members states including Austria, Hungary and Latvia into Turkey.
The welfare groups checked 44 animal transports at the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.
"Delays lasting hours, even days, regularly occur at the border while the trucks wait for veterinary and customs clearance. During the delays animals are left in blistering heat on stationary vehicles without sufficient water and food," CWF said in a statement.
It noted temperatures of up to 58 degrees Celsius left animals desperate with thirst.
"In many cases the water taps are not working or are not turned on, or the water tank is empty. Even when the water system is working, the overcrowding means that many animals cannot reach the water devices," CWF said.
Turkey entered formal negotiations to join the EU in 2005. These have included talks on food safety regulations, which includes the welfare of animals.
A Turkish official said the agriculture ministry has prepared a draft law covering the welfare of livestock during transit, and it has been sent to relevant institutions for their opinions.
No immediate comment was available from the European Commission. (Editing by Jane Baird)