A check of regulations meant to protect animals during transportation found that they all fall short of fully protecting animals during transport, according to a study published in Royal Society Open Science. This work compared animal transport rules designed to protect livestock transported on lengthy journeys in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the EU (including the UK), and the US.
The study involved researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Essex, UK, and is the first comprehensive fitness check of how live animals are transported in five English-speaking Western countries to assess whether the regulatory framework for this sector is enough to protect the animals.
Farm animals endure live transport at some point in their lives. It can be an extremely stressful experience for these animals, often involving long hours without food, drink, or rest. To check the current regulations, researchers considered four major risk factors associated with live animal transportation: fitness for transport, duration of the journey, climatic conditions, and space allowance.
Results showed that all countries could improve and develop new animal protection policies. For example, countries included in the study do not have a maximum journey time, and animals can be transported for days without rest. In addition, some countries don’t mandate regular stops during long journeys, and those that do make them too short for a meaningful recovery. The authors believe using the most recent science would be essential to improve animal welfare during transport.
“Our findings indicate that regulations are often insufficient or too vague to ensure they are fit for purpose. All studied countries fall short in guaranteeing adequate protection to livestock during transport. Whilst this does not mean that all animals transported will experience serious harms, major risk factors such as excessively long journeys, or journeys during hot weather, are not being addressed to a satisfactory level,” said Dr Ben Lecorps, study co-author and Animal Welfare Lecturer in the Bristol Veterinary School.
“Even if they do not necessarily reflect the latest scientific evidence, some regulations are more specific than others. If we were to take the best from each regulatory framework (e.g., fitness for transport in Canada; providing species-specific thresholds for the temperature inside vehicles in the EU) and apply some of the propositions made by some countries (e.g. a ban of export outside the EU borders: proposition of some EU Member States), the ensuing regulations would be a major step closer to safeguarding animal welfare during transportation,” added Dr Eugénie Duval, study co-author and Lecturer in Law at the Essex Law School.
Duval E, Lecorps B, von Keyserlingk MAG. Are regulations addressing farm animal welfare issues during live transportation fit for purpose? A multi-country jurisdictional check. R Soc Open Sci. 2024 Jan 24;11(1):231072. doi: 10.1098/rsos.231072.