Live transport factfile

Almost all farm animals will be transported at some point in their lives, whether on long or short journeys, and most are eventually transported to an abattoir (slaughterhouse) for slaughter/killing.

Legislation

Sheep on a lorry © Andrew Forsyth/RSPCA Photolibrary

From January 1st 2021 the UK can split from EU laws on live animal transport. The UK Government is now consulting on new laws including a ban on live exports, improving vehicle and ship standards and reducing maximum lengths of time that different species can be transported by road, rail, sea and air.

 

Journey times

Short journeys

In 'basic' vehicles, journey times must not be longer than eight hours.

Long journeys

In vehicles that meet additional requirements journey times can be longer. For example, in so-called 'higher-specification' vehicles, livestock can be transported for well over eight hours 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 animals
  • if the animal has any injuries and their severity
  • 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.

Enforcement

  • 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 8 hours or less) or 'long journey' authorisation and a valid certificate of competence.
  • If transporters break the rules, EU Member States can theoretically apply penalties including withdrawal of their authorisation, 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 EU member states are expected to carry out checks on vehicles and animals during transport and at the end of journeys. The European Commission is meant to supervise this.

Find out about the key welfare issues for animals during live transport.

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