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UK Government plans major changes to poultry transport rules

Major changes being proposed around livestock transport could have enormous practical implications for the UK poultry meat and egg sector.

The National Farmers’ Union has warned that the plans – part of Government proposals based on a 2019 Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) evidence review – could lead to negative impacts on the resilience of the wider UK food supply chain.

Bird welfare is high on the agenda in the UK, higher than in many places. Yet, extra regulations are proposed for transportation. Photo: Fabian Brockotter
Bird welfare is high on the agenda in the UK, higher than in many places. Yet, extra regulations are proposed for transportation. Photo: Fabian Brockotter

The main proposals affecting poultry are:

  • Journey times for transporting broiler chickens to slaughter are to be limited to 4 hours, including the loading and unloading of birds.
  • Journey times for transporting recently hatched chicks are to be limited to 21 hours (extending to 24 hours with Government agency permission).
  • No journey to take place for any poultry species if the forecasted external temperature for the journey is below 5°C (40°F) or above 25°C (77°F), unless the vehicle can regulate the internal temperature within this range for the duration of the journey by means of a thermo-regulation system (such as those in vehicles used to transport day old chicks)
  • Poultry is exempt from the proposed ban on live exports for slaughter or further fattening for slaughter within 6 months of export.

Thomas Wornham, NFU national poultry board chairman, said the main priority for poultry farmers was the health and welfare of birds, adding the industry had invested heavily in improving bird welfare at all stages throughout the supply chain. “We are concerned that the proposed regulatory changes to domestic journey for poultry and the export of chicks could have enormous practical implications for both poultry meat and egg producers,” he added. Farmers writing on the popular UK Farming Forum thread said that out of all the proposals the minimum temperature was the most ridiculous.

Welfare campaigners positive

Welfare campaigners welcomed the move, which apart from poultry, could lead to a ban on live animal exports. The RSPCA said in response to Defra’s consultation that it would like to see poultry live exports prohibited. “Any exception must apply to breeding animals only. Breeding animals have a higher economic value and therefore, the conditions under which they are transported are generally better, as is the care that they receive when they arrive at their destination. I do not believe there should be an exemption made for exporting poultry.”

The consultation runs until 28 January and is open for anyone to respond to. It can be found here.