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Live transport of farm animals

Almost all farm animals will be transported at some point in their lives, on long or short journeys. For example, most are eventually transported to an abattoir to be slaughtered. We're working in a number of ways to improve the conditions in which all farm animals are transported. Read on to find out more about welfare concerns, current legislation, and our welfare standards for farm animals.

Welfare issues

If animal welfare isn't made a priority during live transport, there's a high risk of them suffering. This is because:

  • handling during loading onto and unloading from vehicles can be stressful and even cause injuries
  • many livestock vehicles are ‘basic’, meaning they lack important features such as temperature control and sufficient ventilation
  • during transport, animals may be faced with new sights, movements, noises, smells and unfamiliar animals and people   
  • heat stress, lack of good ventilation and long periods without food, water or rest can result in health and welfare problems.

These risks increase as the animals’ journey time increases. We believe that:

  • live transport must be kept to a minimum  
  • animals should be slaughtered as close as possible to the farms where they were reared
  • long-distance transportation of livestock for slaughter should be replaced with a 'meat-carcass-only' trade  
  • during transport, higher welfare standards should be used and the animals looked after by competent and caring staff.
After 100 years of campaigning by the RSPCA and many other organisations, the UK Government has banned live animal exports from Great Britain. This significant achievement for farmed animal welfare will end gruelling journeys, many of which would exceed 100 hours, and caused exceptional mental and physical suffering. Learn more about our #ActNowForAnimals campaign here.

Current legislation

Journey times

Short journeys

In 'basic' vehicles, journey times must be no longer than eight hours.

Long journeys

In vehicles that meet additional requirements, journey times can be longer. For example, pigs can be transported for 24 hours without a break so long as water is available at all time. Cattle can be transported for 14 hours without food or water, given a one-hour break (on the vehicle) and then transported another 14 hours without food and water. These long journey times can be taking place in temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius.

'Fit' to travel and special provisions

There are various rules about whether an animal is 'fit' to travel. These include:

  • the age of the animal
  • if the animal has any injuries and how severe those injuries are
  • the stage of pregnancy of pregnant females.

Some special provisions (such as bedding material) must be given to very young animals, and there are limits to the steepness of ramps used for loading and unloading.


It's crucial that the UK's rules are effectively enforced to reduce the risk of animals suffering.

  • Anyone transporting animals for commercial purposes must carry documents stating the animals' origin, ownership, place of departure, destination, and expected duration of the journey.
  • All transporters must hold either a 'short journey' (for travel of eight hours or less) or 'long journey' authorisation and a valid certificate of competence.
  • If transporters break the rules, penalties such as the withdrawal of their authorisation can be applied, which would prevent further trading.
  • Any vehicle used to transport animals on long journeys must be inspected and approved by the authorities before they can be used.
  • All transporters are expected to carry out checks on vehicles and animals during transport and at the end of journeys.

Engaging with decision makers

We take every opportunity to put forward our views to governments and other key decision makers to encourage improvements. We gave both oral and written evidence to the inquiry into live transport and live exports of animals.

What are we doing about livestock transportation?

We're able to improve the lives of millions of farm animals each year using our welfare standards for farm animals. The standards have been developed for 10 of the most commonly farmed animals in the UK and include hundreds of requirements, based on scientific evidence and practical experience, to ensure higher standards of welfare for all animals reared, transported and slaughtered.

The standards include requirements for transport, covering areas such as maximum permitted journey times, training of staff, humane handling of animals during loading and unloading, and adequate space provision during journeys.

Find out more