Speaking after a report on animal transport had gone to the European Parliament Agriculture Committee, Smith said the first priority was enforcement of the current rules, before considering new legislation.
The committee report did not demand a blanket eight-hour limit, but based travelling time on the scientific needs of individual species, with derogations for remote regions such as the Scottish Highlands.
One of Smith’s amendments focussed on a stronger application of the existing legislation, particularly in regions where it had previously been patchy.
He also wanted to turn the spotlight on the root causes of long journey times, particularly the lack of regional slaughterhouses. He proposed a revisiting of the state aid rules to encourage investment in rural infrastructure. This, he said would mean that animals would not have to be transported long distances to slaughter in the future.
“I have consistently made the point that if we cannot enforce the rules that we have now we are unlikely to be able to enforce this eight-hour limit.
“It is preferable to transport meat to live animals, and so slaughter as close as possible to the place of rearing would be an important step.”
He described the present situation as a classical example of the EU’s left hand not knowing what the right is doing, as improved animal welfare standards had gone hand in hand with tight state aid rules forcing the closure of local rural slaughterhouses.