This scientific opinion replaces the previous version published on 12 January 2011.
Following a request from the European Commission, the Panel on Animal Health and Welfare was asked to deliver a Scientific Opinion on the welfare of animals during transport. An ad hoc expert working group was established in response to the request which made use of the information provided by stakeholders during the Technical Meeting held on 13 October 2010. The scientific opinion on the welfare of animals during transport was adopted by the AHAW Panel on 2nd December 2010.
In order to supplement the two previous reports on the welfare of animals during transport (SCAHAW; 2002 and EFSA, 2004), the working group collected the most recent scientific information concerning the main farm species (horses, pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, poultry and rabbits). New scientific evidence and data were then arranged following the structure of Annex I of Regulation 1/2005: fitness for transport; means of transport; transport practices; watering and feeding intervals; journey times and resting periods; additional provisions for long journeys and space allowances. Conclusions and Recommendations have been structured accordingly.
On the fitness for transport, in cattle evidence appears that there should be repeated humane handling during rearing and immediately prior to transport, in order to minimise aversive reactions. In poultry, the type and the age of bird determine its potential for reduced welfare in transport and the presence of metabolic disease and injuries in both broilers and laying hens may be exacerbated by poor transportation conditions and inappropriate handling. Additionally, it is concluded that under current commercial conditions, birds with both old injuries and catching/induced injuries, as well as those with pre/existing pathologies, may be loaded and transported. Therefore, in order to reduce these incidences, careful inspection of both broiler chickens and laying hens prior to transport is recommended.
In the case of the means of transport, new scientific evidence confirms previous conclusions on crate design, floor type, mixing unfamiliar animals, thermal stress and lack of ventilation in rabbits. In horses, it is recommended that to avoid aggression leading to injury, horses (except for mares travelling with their foals) should always be transported in individual stalls or pens, whether by road, rail, air or sea. Equidae find it relatively difficult to maintain their posture during sudden vehicle movements, therefore it is recommended that partitions used between stalls should protect and physically isolate each animal. Pigs should be fasted before transport and water should always be available at the farm, assembly point and lairage. During long transports (over 8 h) water should be provided at rest stops but it is unnecessary to provide water continuously while the vehicle is in motion. In the case of sheep, acceleration, braking, stopping, cornering, gear changing and uneven road surfaces should be avoided and driving quality on long journeys monitored and recorded using accelerometers in the vehicles. In poultry, the main recommendations are that specific thermal limits should be defined for broilers, laying hens and end of lay hens, e.g. the upper limit in a transport container for broilers should be 24-25 ºC assuming a relative humidity of 70% or higher and that a lower limit temperature limit for broilers in containers should be 5 ºC. When transporting poultry for 4 hours or more, vehicles should be equipped with mechanical ventilation systems. On the additional provisions for sea transport, in horses it is recommended that the time spent on a lorry loaded onto a vessel should be considered as journey time. In cattle, ventilation systems in vessels should have the capacity to prevent excessive heat load and electrolyte solutions should be made available on long sea journeys when there is a risk of heat stress.
In relation to the transport practices it is recommended that wherever possible, animals should be kept in stable social groups. Pigs should be loaded onto vehicles in groups no greater than six. Sows and boars should be handled separately and transported in separate compartments. In the case of goats, groups should be kept stable, repeated regrouping should be avoided, and the introduction of new individuals should be monitored closely. Horned and hornless goats should be kept separate. When goats have to be isolated for management purposes, they should be provided with olfactory, vocal, and visual contact with their group members. During transport of rabbits adequate ventilation has to be ensured to maintain the inside crate temperature within a range of 5-20 ºC. Temperature limits for newly hatched chicks during transportation should be introduced.
Recommendations on watering and feeding intervals, journey times and resting periods were drawn. In horses, when untrained horses of uncertain health status are transported for slaughter, the journey time should not normally exceed 12 hours. Horses should have continual access to an unrestricted supply of clean drinking water for a period of one hour before transport and for one hour immediately following transport. In pigs, for journeys exceeding 24 hours, feed should be available every 24 hours at staging points followed by 6 hours rest. Cattle should be offered water during rest periods on journeys of 8 to 29 hours. Adult cattle should not be transported on a journey of longer than 29 hours. After this time there should be a 24 hour recovery period with access to appropriate food and water. In rabbits, time spent inside the containers during lairage should not be considered as a resting period but as journey time. In the case of rabbits transported in containers and kept at arrival for lairage journey time should be defined as commencing when the first animal is loaded into a container and as ending when the last animal is unloaded from a container. For journeys longer than 4 hours for broilers and end of lay hens, vehicles should be equipped with mechanical ventilation and thermal environment should be monitored and controlled.
On the space allowance, conclusions and recommendations are focused on the way of calculation of the spaces depending on the animal type. In the case of horses space allowances should be given in terms of kg/m2 instead of m2/animal where animals are likely to differ significantly in weight or body condition. Cattle should be provided with sufficient space to stand without contact with their neighbours and to lie down if the journey is more than 12 hours. Space allowances should be calculated according to an allometric equation relating size to body weight in cattle and sheep. For cattle with horns, space allowance should be 7% higher. Limits for stocking densities of broilers in transport containers should be related to thermal conditions. Numbers should be limited in conditions when external temperatures exceed the proposed acceptable range (e.g. > 22 ºC) and on long journeys.
Animal transport monitoring has been also considered. Navigation systems should incorporate temperature monitoring and warning systems. Common minimum standards should be set up, in particular regarding the data type to be recorded, the system and the on-board architecture. A series of practical clinical measurements and observations, which can provide animal industry professionals and inspector with data to assess the welfare of animals during transport, is also listed.
Recommendations for further research are focused on the thermal limits and thermal regulation for poultry and rabbits and the effects of ventilation in relation to the level of stress of the pigs. The allowed minimum space allowance in rabbits, newly hatched chicks and pigs and the ‘optimal’ journey time in unweaned horses, pigs and calves should be also further studied.