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New rules for animal welfare in transport

View profile for Rebecca Ironmonger
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In April this year, we considered the proposed changes to the regulations surrounding animal welfare in transport contained in the government consultation. Last month, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (“DEFRA”) published its response to the consultation and laid out its plans for the new rules to be contained in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill.

What will be changing?

The Government will be proceeding with the ban on exporting livestock (cattle, pigs, goats and sheep) and horses for fattening and slaughter. The ban will not apply to poultry or for purposes other than fattening or slaughter such as for breeding or competitions.

Journey times will be minimised with maximum journey times to be introduced. For broiler chickens, the maximum journey time will be 4 hours not including loading and unloading. The maximum journey times for other species will be:

  • Newly hatched chicks – 24 hours
  • Pigs – 18 hours
  • Newly weaned pigs – 12 hours
  • Calves up to 9 months – 9 hours
  • Horses – 12 hours
  • Cattle, sheep and all other animals – 21 hours

Exceptions in each category are to be further considered by DEFRA in consultation with industry and stakeholders.

One of the proposed changes which was discussed in our April blog was the proposal surrounding temperature and ventilation. Although the Government will be conducting further research before implementation, it does intend to prohibit the transport of poultry where the external temperature is outside of the 5-25 degrees C range and the vehicle is not capable of thermoregulation. For livestock, a temperature range of 0-30 degrees C for journeys under 8 hours and 0-25 degrees C for journeys over 8 hours will apply. The rules will only apply to journeys over 65km.

Additional changes include new requirements for headroom of 10cm for pigs and 20cm for other animals.

What do the changes mean for the meat industry?

The upcoming changes to the transport regulations will have the greatest impact on poultry farmers, hauliers and slaughterhouses, due to the double whammy of the reduced maximum journey times and new temperature controls. It is encouraging that DEFRA listened to industry when concerns were expressed about how restrictive the 4-hour limit would be if loading and unloading was included. However, this does not take away from the fact that a 4-hour maximum journey will still be difficult to achieve for many poultry farmers who do not have access to a local poultry abattoir.

Over the last decade, the number of small slaughterhouses and abattoirs has reduced dramatically and continues to decrease as challenges facing the industry multiply. The new regulations will add to the difficulties.

For poultry transporters and hauliers, and those abattoirs and farmers who have their own transport vehicles, it will be necessary to invest in vehicles capable of regulating the internal temperature to within the new proscribed range. The Government have said that they will be working with industry to assist in the transition, but the necessity of investment in the short to medium term after the Bill is enacted is likely to be unavoidable for the vast majority of transporters.

What happens next?

The ban on the export of animals for fattening and slaughter is contained in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which is currently at the 2nd reading stage in the House of Commons. The Bill also provides for the retained directly applicable EU law in relation to animal welfare to be amended in regulations.

The Government will continue to have conversations with industry and stakeholders to work out the specifics of the new regulations before introducing them.

For further information on how we can help if you have any issues or concerns with animal welfare, please visit our Regulatory Team page.

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