Live animal transport regulations not ‘fit for purpose’, major international study finds

live animal transport regulations
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A ‘fitness check’ of regulations in five countries meant to protect animals during transportation, has deemed that they all fall short of fully protecting animals during transport.

Findings from this interdisciplinary work involving the Universities of Bristol, Essex and British Columbia (Canada) which compared animal transport rules designed to protect the billions of livestock that are transported on lengthy journeys in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the EU (including the UK) and the US, highlights serious failures. 

The study, published in Royal Society Open Science and involving animal welfare scientists and a law lecturer, is the first comprehensive fitness check of live animal transportation regulations in five English-speaking Western countries to assess whether the regulatory framework for a policy sector is fit for purpose.

Researchers investigated four major risk factors associated with live animal transportation—fitness for transport, journey duration, climatic conditions and space allowances—and explored how regulations were structured to prevent animal welfare issues.

Results from this research showed that all countries could improve and draw key future directions for new policies. For instance, no countries adopt maximum journey duration for all animals, meaning that animals can sometimes be transported for days. Not all countries mandate regular rest stops for long journeys but those that do often mandate rest stop times that are too short to allow meaningful recovery. 

Updating the transport regulations using the most recent science would be an important step towards improved animal welfare during transport, bringing the livestock industries more in line with societal values.

The team also considered recent and proposed changes to the regulations. These included reviewed changes that have been announced but not yet been translated into legislation or different options that are being considered. 

“Our findings indicate that regulations are often insufficient or too vague to ensure they are fit for purpose,” study co-author Dr Ben Lecorps said.

“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.”

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