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More space, lower temperatures, shorter journeys: EFSA recommendations to improve animal welfare during transport

Flock of sheep being loaded on to a live animal transporter

Providing more space, lowering maximum temperatures, and keeping journey times to a minimum are all needed to improve the welfare of farmed animals during transport, according to recommendations published today by EFSA. The advice by EFSA is provided to the European Commission in a series of five scientific opinions intended to support its ongoing review of animal welfare legislation in the European Union (EU) – a key element of the EU’s Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy.

The scientific opinions cover small ruminants (sheep and goats), equids (horses and donkeys), bovines (cattle and calves), pigs, and animals transported in containers, including domestic birds (chickens, laying hens, turkeys etc.) and rabbits. They identify the various welfare consequences that animals may experience during different stages of transportation, the hazards potentially causing them, and the animal-based measures (ABMs) by which they can be assessed. For all species A subdivision of the genus, a species is a group of closely related and similar-looking organisms; for example, in the case of Homo sapiens (humans), the second part of the name (sapiens) represents the species., being fit for transport is of the utmost importance.

“Good animal welfare practices not only reduce unnecessary suffering but also help to make animals healthier. This is a key element for the safety of the food chain considering the close links between animal welfare, animal health and food-borne diseases, in line with the One Health principle that EFSA is committed to”, said Guilhem de Seze, EFSA’s Head of Department for Risk Assessment Production.

EFSA has developed quantitative thresholds for the temperatures that should be maintained in a vehicle as well as minimum space allowances for the animals. EFSA also describes the development or progression of various other welfare consequences over time during transport, such as hunger, thirst, and fatigue.

For example, for animals transported in containers (poultry and rabbits), EFSA recommends that the journey duration should be considered as the whole time the animals are kept in the containers. The only way to avoid welfare consequences in day-old chicks is to transport fertilised eggs and hatch them on the farm of destination.

The current EU legislation on the protection of animals during transport entered into force in 2005. Within the framework of the F2F strategy, EFSA’s findings will support the European Commission’s ongoing review of legislation with the aim to align it with the latest scientific evidence, broaden its scope, make it easier to enforce and ultimately ensure a higher level of animal welfare.  The Commission’s proposal is expected in the second half of 2023.

Upcoming public event on animal welfare

On 26 September, EFSA is holding a public event in which it will present the results of the scientific opinions on the transport of animals and its recently published advice on the welfare of farmed pigs. More information can be found at this link.

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