The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is gathering the views of stakeholders on the welfare of animals during transport in the EU.

The EFSA is in the early stages of a scientific assessment of the matter, an assessment that will support the European Commission’s current review of animal welfare legislation.

The purpose of the consultation is to:
  • Gather any available data and information related to the environment – temperature, humidity, ammonia levels – that animals experience during transport; 
  • Obtain stakeholders’ views on whether the mandate sent to the EFSA and its interpretation of its terms of reference cover relevant transport practices and areas of concern;
  • Collect feedback on the practical obstacles that stand in the way of compliance with current animal welfare legislation when transporting animals.

Nikolaus Kriz, head of EFSA’s Animal and Plant Health Unit, explained: “We decided to hold an early consultation to ensure that our work is based on the widest evidence base possible.

“The scientific literature on animal transport is scarce, which is why we are looking for input from all relevant bodies, such as animal transport organisations, national authorities, NGOs, and veterinary associations.

“A successful public consultation is important not just for EFSA, but for all those who want to strengthen the standards of animal welfare in the EU using the most up to date scientific knowledge.”

The scientific opinion, which is expected to be finalised in the second half of 2022, will identify the hazards and welfare consequences of common transport practices – such as roll-on/roll-off ferries, road and air – for six groups of animals: Equids (horses, donkeys); bovines (cattle and calves); small ruminants (sheep and goats); pigs; domestic birds (chickens, laying hens, turkeys); and rabbits.

Within the framework of the Farm to Fork strategy, the EFSA’s findings will support the update of policies aimed at safeguarding the welfare of transported animals in the EU.

The consultation will remain open for eight weeks, closing on June 10.

New Zealand government to phase out live exports by sea

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government announced this week that the export of livestock by sea will cease following a transition period of up to two years.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said that “at the heart” of the decision is upholding New Zealand’s “reputation for high standards of animal welfare”.

“We must stay ahead of the curve in a world where animal welfare is under increasing scrutiny,” the minister said.

“This decision will affect some farmers, exporters, and importers and a transition period will enable the sector to adapt.”

Live exports by sea represent approximately 0.2% of New Zealand’s primary sector exports revenue since 2015.

The minister said that while he acknowledges the economic benefit some farmers get from the trade, he notes that support of it “is not universal within the sector”.