EFSA assesses welfare risks to animals during transport

14-01-2011 | | |

Scientists on the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) AHAW Panel have made a number of recommendations based upon a thorough review of the most recent scientific literature from 2004 to date, following the framework of the current European legislation on the welfare of animals during transport.

The Panel members set out indicators that veterinary inspectors and transport workers could use in assessing the welfare of transported animals. The experts also highlighted the need for further research, for example, on travelling times, space and the levels of temperature during transport.

In 2005, the European Union laid down provisions to protect the welfare of animals during transport. EFSA’s opinion will contribute to a report the European Commission is due to present in 2011 to the European Parliament and to the EU Member States on the impact of the 2005 regulation.

Tranpsort practices
The opinion presents risks related to the transport of the following farm species: horses, pigs, sheep, goats, cattle, poultry, and rabbits. It outlines the level of risk related to various aspects of animal transport like the means of transport, transport practices and space requirements. EFSA also gathered new scientific and technical data at a technical meeting in October 2010 with representatives from 22 organisations, including the transport industry, livestock breeders, and animal welfare non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

This opinion also lists a series of practical indicators and clinical measurements, which can be used by animal industry professionals and inspectors to assess the welfare of animals during transport. For example, if, after inspecting an animal, a professional or an inspector believes it is suffering from high body temperature or making abnormal respiratory sounds, such measurements can be used to justify a decision to declare the animal unfit for transport.

Temperatures for poultry
Various studies indicate an ideal upper limit of 24-25°C, and a lower limit of 5°C for the temperature in containers used for transporting chickens raised for meat production. Scientific evidence indicates that the introduction of temperature limits in the transport of newly hatched chickens could have beneficial effects on the welfare of the birds.

Experts encourage further research on ventilation. For journeys longer than four hours scientific studies show that vehicles equipped with mechanical ventilation can maintain satisfactory temperature levels, which ought to be monitored and recorded.