Commission unveils welfare during transport legislation

An image showing sheep in transport

By Kate Adams, Senior European Policy Advisor

The Commission’s proposals on animal welfare during transport were unveiled in December. Laying down stricter rules including maximum journey times, temperature limits, minimum age of transport and how journeys are logged, the proposed legislation will have wide ranging implications for the sector.

April 2024 update 

In March, the European Parliament adopted the AGRI and TRAN Committees as the responsible committees. The PECHE Committee will provide an opinion. 

The UK Farming Unions (NFU, NFU Scotland, UFU and NFU Cymru) have submitted a joint response to the Commission. You can read the response here


Under the EU's Farm Fork Strategy - the strategy that outlines how food systems can be more sustainable - the Commission aimed to revise animal welfare legislation in 4 areas: welfare at farm level, welfare during transport, welfare at time of killing and an animal welfare label. The Commission has confirmed that legislation at farm level, at time of killing and proposals on an animal welfare label are delayed until the next Commission mandate (post elections in 2024).

Only the welfare in transport proposals remain. The Commission published the proposals on 7 December 2023. 

The Commission proposals 

Maximum journey times 

The proposals would set maximum journey time limits for terrestrial animals. For animals transported for slaughter, the proposals would see a maximum journey time of 9 hours introduced. However, a derogation could be issued if there are no slaughter facilities within that distance. For animals transported for other purposes, animals could travel for 21 hours, followed by 24 hours of rest at a control post, followed by a further 21 hours travel.

For poultry, birds would be restricted to a 12 hour journey (including loading and offloading) for slaughter, whereas end of lay hens would see a maximum journey of 10 hours. For chicks <48 hours old, journey time would be limited to 24 hours. 

For unweaned calves, lambs, kids and piglets, journey times could not exceed 9 hours unless an appropriate feeding system is in place. Feeding system would have to be approved by the Commission. 

Journey times on sea vessels will not count towards total journey time. The Commission outline this is because animals transported by sea are not exposed to the same type of motion as animals transported by road or rail.

Temperature limits

Organisers responsible for the transport of animals would have to record the forecast temperatures at the place of departure, arrival destination and at border control posts. For low temperatures, if the temperature is expected to be <0oC , animals would have to be protected from windchill. If the temperature forecast is <-5oC , animals would have to be protected from windchill and journey time must not exceed 9 hours.

For higher temperatures, where temperature is expected to be 25 – 30oC, journey times between 10am and 9pm would be limited to 9 hours. If temperatures are expected to exceed 30oC, transport of animals would only be permitted between 9pm and 10am. Animals would also require an additional 20% space.

Specific provisions have been proposed for poultry. When temperatures drop to <10oC, animals must be protected against windchill. For end of lay hens, transported will be prohibited if the temperature inside the vehicle is <15oC.

Space allowances 

The proposals would see an increase in space allowances during transport for all species. Space allowances are set to increase dependent on the liveweight of an animal. For example, a 200 kg pig would require 0.92m2 of space during transport, and a 150 kg bovine 0.96m2

In addition, a minimum vertical height dependent on the wither height of the tallest animal being transported would be required. For poultry, it would have to be ensured that the comb or head does not touch the ceiling when birds are sat in a natural position.

Minimum age of transport 

Calves <5 weeks old and <50 kg in weight would not be considered fit for transport, unless the journey is <100 km. Piglets, lambs and kids <3 weeks of age would also not considered fit for transport, unless their journey is <100 km. 

Authorisation and logging for journeys 

All journeys transporting animals would have to be logged in TRACES – the digital certification and management platform for SPS requirements. Long journeys (>9 hours) would have to have prior authorisation granted by a competent authority via TRACES. In addition, the TRACES system would see the recording of digital authorisations, certificates of approval & competence, temperature forecasts and the tracking of road vehicles.

Sea vessels transporting animals would have to be inspected and approved by a competent authority. An animal welfare officer would be required on all livestock vessels.

Transport to and from third countries 

All journeys transporting animals to or from third countries would have to be authorised through TRACES. The Commission aims to ensure that all journeys and control posts in third countries comply with EU legislation.

Next steps 

The Commission's proposals will now be sent to the European Parliament and Council for consideration. With the European Parliament elections in June 2024, the proposals will likely be paused until after the elections and re-start following the election period. 

Northern Ireland

The current welfare in transport legislation (Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations and amending Directives 64/432/EEC and93/119/EC and Regulation (EC) No 1255/97) is included in Annex II of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The new legislation will therefore directly apply in Northern Ireland. 

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