Welfare of livestock during transport

BVA position on the welfare of livestock during transport

Any movement of animals will have a potential impact on their health and welfare. Whatever the type and scale of movement, the welfare of animals must be prioritised with the aim of reducing the impact of the movement as far as is reasonably possible.

In order to achieve this, all those involved with moving animals must understand what is required of them in law, receive certified training and be encouraged to follow sector-specific good practice guidelines.

Wherever possible, and paying due regard to scientific evidence regarding the relationship between journey times and welfare outcomes, animals to be slaughtered for food should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible. No animal should be knowingly exported to a destination with unknown welfare standards or exported then raised in systems banned in this country due to welfare considerations. Neither should animal product from such animals be re-imported.

BVA supports current legal requirements (European Community Regulation 1/2005 and the UK Welfare of Animals (Transport) Orders and Regulations) that are in force to protect the health and welfare of livestock during transport. It is essential that there are a well-defined set of animal health welfare standards that must be met for the entirety of the journey of animals being transported in this country and abroad. These minimum standards should be the same for all animals no matter the purpose of the export (for example if it is for breeding or fattening), in line with current legislation.

In our full position on the welfare of livestock during transport, BVA sets out 16 recommendations intended to build on existing legal requirements and improve the welfare of livestock during transport:

Improvements to animal welfare during transport

BVA welcomes legislative improvements to safeguard the welfare of animals during transport. Any improvements should be evidence-based and informed by a welfare outcomes approach. However, it is important to emphasise, that any legislative improvements are only beneficial if they are effectively enforced.

We are keen that measures to improve animal welfare during transport should address the issue of welfare before, during and after transport in general. Consequently, we do not support a ban on live exports as we believe such a ban risks oversimplifying the wider determinants of animal welfare during transport.

Any proposals to improve welfare during transport must duly consider how this would work for all of the types of movements, for all UK administrations and the impact of unintended consequences on animal welfare across the UK.

Exporting for non-stun slaughter

Animals should not be exported into systems that have standards below the UK minimum or exported and then raised in system banned in this country. Further, animals should not be exported for non-stun slaughter, our view is that all animals should be stunned before slaughter to render them insensible to pain. We would like to emphasise that exporting animals for non-stun slaughter is not in the spirit of the current derogation in Welfare of Animals at the Time of Killing regulations for non-stun slaughter, which is intended to enable the provision of food in accordance with religious rites for specific communities in the UK.

Multifactorial determinants of welfare during transport

It is important to recognise that the wider determinants of welfare associated with transporting animals - whatever the purpose - can often be conflicting, including the unintended welfare consequences of loading, unloading and the provision of inappropriate rest stop facilities. As such, there are multiple factors that should be considered in efforts to improve the welfare of animals in transport and it is important to emphasise that journey length is not the only influencer of welfare conditions for animals during transport.

Read John Fishwick's blog - Considering the wider determinants of welfare – a comprehensive approach to the welfare of livestock during transport

Exploring opportunities for slaughter as close the point of production as possible

Consideration should be given to providing more opportunities for farm animal slaughter as close to the point of production as possible, in turn reducing the need for animals to be transported over longer distances.

The role of mobile abattoirs should be further explored to create more opportunities for on-farm slaughter of animals destined for human consumption.

Mobile abattoirs would need to comply with current legislative requirements for animal health and welfare at slaughter, biosecurity, food safety and hygiene checks, including ante- and post-mortem inspections performed by Official Veterinarians. In addition, there would be a need for safe lairage facilities, a potable supply of water, facilities for the disposal of animal by-products, as well as suitable facilities for the dressing and movement of carcases.

Any growth in mobile abattoirs should not represent a downgrading of animal health and welfare or public health standards and we could only support the use of mobile abattoirs where appropriate supervision from Official Veterinarians was in place.