Why does Europe transport live animals?

Live animals may be transported for fattening or for slaughtering purposes, the main reasons are due to:

  • In the case of fattening: because some countries are relatively advanced in selective performant breeding (i.e. France for bovines, Denmark for pigs) and others are specialised in fattening either in feed production (i.e. Spain)
  • In the case of slaughtering: sometimes it is for religious reasons (Halal = Muslim tradition, Kosher = Jewish tradition) or just because of the live animals market demand. 

But there are other reasons why live animals are transported across and sometimes out of Europe. 

For breeding purposes

Animal breeders help to improve certain traits in farm animals to improve animal health and welfare while ensuring a better use of resources to contribute to the sustainability of the livestock sector. This means developing and maintaining a large variety of genetic resources. In order to do this in a best risk-managed way, the facilities for animal breeding are located in different regions and countries. These different facilities in different countries help to ensure the best genetics for each type of farm, from organic to other modern farms, at an affordable rate, without any compromise on the animal. If a facility experiences a disease outbreak, the genetic resources still remain safe in other places of Europe, or even in third countries. This is why the transport of live animals is sometimes needed, as it’s not always possible to only transport semen or embryos. And breeders impose standards to ensure the transport is carried out in the best conditions, because the final purpose is to have well-cared for, high-value animals.

Farming is about livelihood, and farmers along with animal breeders do their best to ensure application of EU transport regulations, and improving animal transport is important for a healthy European livestock sector. 

EU Regulations on animal transport

Transport of live animals is a topic of contention in Europe, in particular during hotter periods and there are specific EU rules to define the allowed means of transport and the ‘fit to travel’ status. Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operationsprovides prescriptions about: travel time, rest times, load factor and quality of the means of transport. In addition, slaughterhouses have additional requirements. For example, animals may only be transported in a certified means of transport. The animals must also be healthy in order to be classed as ‘fit to travel’.

In view of the possible spread of infectious animal diseases, inspectors also check compliance with the rules for cleaning and disinfecting lorries.

Transport and temperature

In the Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 several measures are stipulated to ensure adequate ventilation, temperature:

  • Ventilation systems on means of transport by road shall be designed, constructed and maintained in such way that, at any time during the journey, whether the means of transport is stationary or moving, they are capable of maintaining a range of temperatures from 5 oC to 30 oC within the means of transport, for all animals, with a +/- 5 oC tolerance, depending on the outside temperature. 
  • The ventilation system must be capable of ensuring even distribution throughout with a minimum airflow of nominal capacity of 60 m3/h/KN of payload. It must be capable of operating for at least 4 hours, independently of the vehicle engine. 
  • Means of transport by road must be fitted with a temperature monitoring system as well as with a means of recording such data. Sensors must be located in the parts of the lorry which, depending on its design characteristics, are most likely to experience the worst climatic conditions. Temperature recordings obtained in such manner shall be dated and made available to the competent authority upon request. 
  • of transport by road must be fitted with a warning system in order to alert the driver when the temperature in the compartments where animals are located reaches the maximum or the minimum limit.