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Animal Welfare during Transport: a first look

Updated: Aug 15, 2023

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Many animal advocacy organisations have considered campaigning to improve the welfare of animals during transport. Since the animal advocacy movement has limited resources, it is important to focus on the campaigns and asks that generate the largest improvements in the lives of animals. Is transport the best focus for animal advocacy campaigns, or should the movement's focus be elsewhere? In this report, we take a first look at that question.


The transport of live farmed animals is very common, and situations will differ in every country and for every species. It would be prohibitively time-consuming to systematically compare the transport of every species of farmed animal in every country. We have based our main argument on three case studies, which provide illustrative examples of the treatment of farmed animals during transport for a range of species, countries, and industries. While this report is not a systematic comparison of all aspects of animal welfare during transport, it is sufficient as a first look at whether transport should be a major focus for the farmed animal advocacy movement.


The four sections within this report can be read mostly separately. Feel free to focus on the sections that are most relevant for you and your work.


In Part 1 (two pages long), we present the case that improving animal welfare during transport should not currently be a priority for animal advocacy organisations. We consider how farmed animals might benefit from reforming laws around animal transport. We compare transport campaigns to other campaigns that the movement can pursue instead (e.g. on-farm welfare reform and slaughter reform). Overall, we expect that transport reform will benefit animals far less than other types of campaigns - animals experience transport for only a very short period of their lives (less than 1% of animal-years). Of course, we always find it emotionally challenging to recommend that a particular group of animals should not be a focus of campaigns, but it is important that the animal advocacy movement's limited resources go towards doing as much good for animals as possible.


In Part 2 (two pages long), we summarise the times when it would be a good use of resources for animal advocacy organisations to campaign for better animal welfare during transport. For example, animal advocacy organisations may occasionally have the opportunity to push for higher-welfare transport regulations with only a small investment of time and energy. Transport could form one part of an overarching welfare campaign that also focuses on other parts of the animals' lives. If you are aware of particular transport reforms that could be costly to the farming industry, this could help make farming less profitable (though we haven't yet seen any examples of this). Also, there may be opportunities to improve transport regulations when existing standards or regulations come up for public consultation and review, or when animal transport catastrophes are publicised in the media. For organisations that are nevertheless keen to campaign to improve animal welfare during transport, we provide links to some resources that can help you to develop new welfare asks in your own country or jurisdiction.


In Appendix 1 (15 pages long), we focus on Poland. We examine three asks relating to animal welfare during transport: improving enforcement, improving temperature limits, and decreasing journey times. We conclude that improving temperature limits and decreasing journey times could bring some benefits to animals transported in Poland, though - as explained in Part 1 of the report - the benefits are likely to be fairly small.


In Appendix 2 (9 pages long), we illustrate the background to animal welfare during transport by examining three case studies from around the world: the transport of chickens in the European Union, the live export of sheep and cows from Australia, and the live transport of fish in China. We chose these case studies to illustrate the problems with live animal transport across a variety of species, industries, and countries. All three of these case studies arrive at similar conclusions: there are numerous welfare challenges facing the animals, and suffering appears to be common. However, transport accounts for a very small proportion of the lives of farmed animals. In all three cases, when you account for the animals who are farmed but not transported, less than 1% of the lives of farmed animals are experienced during transport. This means that the benefits of reforming animal welfare during transport, while potentially meaningful for the animals affected, would only prevent a very small amount of the suffering imposed on animals by farming. This supports our general case that improving animal welfare during transport should not currently be a priority for animal advocacy organisations.


PART 1: IMPROVING ANIMAL WELFARE DURING TRANSPORT IS OFTEN LESS EFFECTIVE THAN OTHER ASKS

In this section, we compare transport reforms to other animal welfare reforms. We consider general transport reform, general slaughter reform, and two well-understood animal welfare reforms on-farm (cage-free, and the Better Chicken Commitment). A substantial part of the farmed animal advocacy movement focuses on cage-free campaigns, Better Chicken Commitment campaigns, and slaughter reform - as such, these are appropriate benchmarks against which we can compare a potential transport campaign.


Our analysis concludes that across all of the metrics considered (e.g. number of animals affected, duration of suffering prevented per animal, intensity of suffering), transport reform is less competitive than on-farm welfare reforms. Transport reforms may prevent a longer duration of suffering than slaughter reform, but the suffering is still likely to be less intense.


In short, if you want to help animals as much as possible, it makes more sense to campaign for on-farm welfare reforms or slaughter reforms, not transport reforms.


This analysis is supported by the three case studies (discussed in more detail in Appendix 2). As this analysis is hindered by a lack of information in some areas, we also give our rough confidence level for each claim.

  • The total proportion of an average farmed animal's life that is spent in transport is typically very small (90% confidence). For example, our case studies found that the percentage of an animal's life spent in transport is 0.4 - 1.2% for chickens in the EU; 1.1 - 8.5% for sheep and cows exported live from Australia; 0.05% for fish transported in China (Appendix 2).

  • In countries with existing animal welfare regulations during transport, further animal welfare reforms would typically bring about minor improvements (60% confidence). This claim may not apply in contexts where there are no animal welfare regulations during transport (e.g. fish in China).

  • Most of the suffering experienced due to transport is minor or moderate pain, rather than extreme pain (55% confidence). For argument's sake, if we imagine that all of the suffering experienced during transport is extreme pain (which is highly unlikely), transport reform could still only prevent a few hours of extreme pain per animal at most. This might make transport appear more competitive than slaughter reform, but not more competitive than cage-free reforms or the Better Chicken Commitment. (Some people believe that it is most urgent to prevent suffering that is extreme, which makes slaughter reform appear even more competitive.)

This analysis is also made more difficult by the fact that transport practices vary across species, country, and industry. If you are campaigning for, or considering campaigning for, better animal welfare during transport, feel free to reach out to us at Animal Ask. We can discuss your specific region and help you identify what asks would best improve the lives of animals for you and your organisation.


PART 2: SUPPORT HIGHER-WELFARE TRANSPORT WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY ARISES

In Part 1 of this report, we explained why the animal advocacy movement might not want to make transport a major focus of its campaigns.


To be clear, governments, producers, and retailers should always be strongly encouraged to improve welfare during transport when the opportunity arises. There are times when animal advocacy organisations can push for improvements in animal transport regulations and standards with a relatively low investment of resources:

  • An animal advocacy organisation could include transport as one part of an overarching welfare ask that also improves many other aspects of animals' lives.

  • When regulations or standards come up for review, there is often an opportunity for the public and organisations to submit their views. This is a relatively low investment of energy (i.e. preparing and submitting a single document), but it can nevertheless encourage the government or other body to consider improvements to animal welfare standards in transport.

  • Occasionally, there are high-profile events relating to animal transport that are publicised in the media. For example, a ship from the EU that capsized in 2019, killing 14,000 sheep (4), and there have also been multiple instances of highly-publicised animal welfare catastrophes in the Australian live export industry (5). (Sometimes these media stories are the result of investigations or publications by animal advocacy organisations.) When these events occur, they naturally generate a lot of public outrage, and it makes perfect sense to focus this outrage on achieving reforms for animals in transport. At this time, animal advocacy organisations could encourage policymakers or corporations to adopt higher animal welfare standards, given the public attention.

  • It is possible that there are some ways that transport reform could be costly to the farming industry. We haven't seen any examples of this, but it is possible that there are particular policies in any given country that could impose large costs on producers and farming companies. This could help make the farming industry less profitable, which might lead to the industry farming fewer animals. If you have specific ideas for how transport reform could accomplish this in your jurisdiction, then this would be one reason why you might consider campaigning for transport reform.

If you are planning to campaign for improvements to animal welfare during transport, it may help to have strict yet authoritative standards in other jurisdictions to draw from. For example, you may be able to develop your specific ask by drawing on laws, standards, and precedents from other parts of the world. In this section, we list some places where you can find these laws and standards for some major groups of farmed animals, specifically - chickens, fish, shrimp, and other land animals.


Chickens

Chickens are, by far, the most numerous group of farmed land animals (6). There are well-developed recommendations for improving their welfare during transport.


The strongest recommendations on the welfare of chickens during transport are available in:

  • The opinion issued by the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (7). This opinion is recent and comprehensive, and provides numerous evidence-based recommendations.

  • European Union Council Regulation 1/2005. This is discussed in detail in the above case study on the transport of chickens in the EU.

  • The new UK policy on animal transport (8). This policy provides recommendations for chicken welfare during transport that are, compared to other countries, fairly stringent.

  • RSPCA Assured standards for laying hens and broiler chickens (9,10).

  • Global Animal Protection standards (11).

Fish

Although fish are farmed in immense numbers, far outnumbering even land animals like chickens, laws and standards that aim to improve their welfare during transport are only just beginning to emerge.


Fish are a very diverse group of animals, so recommendations for improving fish welfare during transport should be specific to species, age, environment of origin, etc (12). Generally speaking, the major determinants of fish welfare during transport are handling, stocking density, water quality (including factors such as dissolved oxygen, pH, salinity, and temperature), and water movement (12–14)


The strongest recommendations on the welfare of fish during transport are available in:

  • Opinions issued by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee (15–17). These opinions focus on species of fish farmed in the UK (Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout).

  • RSPCA Assured standards for Atlantic salmon (18).

  • Global Animal Partnership standards for Atlantic salmon (19).

Shrimp

Shrimp are farmed in far larger numbers than even fish - hundreds of billions of shrimp are farmed each year, meaning that roughly five shrimp are farmed for every land animal farmed (20). Animal welfare legislation protecting shrimp has only recently begun to emerge (e.g. the 2022 Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act recognised shrimp sentience in the UK). Many shrimp are farmed under private certification schemes (21), but those schemes tend not to emphasise welfare. Unfortunately, this means that there are few examples of shrimp transport standards that could be drawn upon in animal welfare campaigns.


Some recommendations are available in the report by Shrimp Welfare Project, which gives an overview about factors affecting shrimp welfare in aquaculture (20). Careful handling and maximum packing weights could help reduce physical injury and stress to shrimp during transport. Further evidence is limited, making it more difficult to draw more comprehensive advice. The 1999 APEC guidelines provide some recommendations for reducing stress to shrimp during transport, though these recommendations also note that there is limited evidence to give comprehensive recommendations. If you are interested in future recommendations for improving shrimp welfare (during transport and elsewhere), we encourage you to follow the work of Shrimp Welfare Project - that organisation is likely to be at the leading edge of shrimp welfare advocacy.


Live export

For live export, we aren't aware of any reason why you shouldn't simply campaign for a ban on live export (rather than improving welfare standards). New Zealand has recently banned live export, following the sinking of a live export ship during a storm that killed 41 crew members and 6,000 cows (22). The government currently in power in Australia has stated an intention to gradually phase the industry out (5).


Other land animals (pigs, cows, sheep, etc)

Other land animals are farmed in far smaller numbers than chickens, fish, and shrimp. However, there are ample recommendations available for improving their welfare during transport, such as the various opinions issued by the EFSA Panel for Animal Health and Welfare (23–26), as well as certification schemes such as RSPCA Assured and Global Animal Partnership.


APPENDIX 1: POLAND

In this Appendix, we provide further details specific to Poland. We conducted this analysis on behalf of Otwarte Klatki (Open Cages Poland). For more information about the work of this organisation, see their website. If animal advocacy in Poland is not relevant to your work, feel free to skip this Appendix.


Otwarte Klatki presented us with several candidate asks, and asked us to figure out which would be the best to campaign for. Overall, we recommend that campaigning on transport is not the best use of resources for animal advocacy organisations. We believe that working on other types of asks, such as on-farm welfare reform, would bring a much larger improvement for the lives of animals. This is discussed in detail in the main body of this report.


Nevertheless, we provide an initial discussion and analysis for the candidate transport asks with which Otwarte Klatki presented us. Overall, we conclude that decreasing journey lengths is the most promising transport ask, as there is very good evidence that shorter journey lengths improve welfare for chickens. We also conclude that improving temperature limits might be helpful, though the evidence is a little bit weaker. Again, we emphasise that even these asks are likely to be less impactful than asks beyond transport.


Our conclusions about each ask are as follows:

  1. More inspections / install security cameras: We do not recommend this ask. Based on the existing body of research about enforcement of animal welfare regulations, we expect that this ask would benefit very few animals.

  2. Improve temperature limits: We believe that this ask could be considered for a campaign. Data is scarce, which means that the impact of this ask is highly uncertain and risks being small or negligible. But it is possible that this ask could reduce suffering from heat and cold stress on some journeys. This would only affect animals who are transported during extreme temperatures and only for the duration of those journeys, and this would only prevent suffering for some of those animals.

  3. Decrease journey lengths: We believe that this ask would be promising for a campaign. There is strong evidence that shorter journey lengths improve the welfare of transported chickens. However, even if this ask resulted in relatively strict limits on journey durations, the total effect would mostly be to shave a couple of hours off of the end of 20-30% of journeys. Again, this might be a small, meaningful improvement for the animals affected, though it would only benefit those animals for a couple of hours each.

In the remainder of this Appendix, we give a general discussion about each of these asks, and we also conduct some calculations to estimate the impact of each of these asks quantitatively. The general discussion is given at the top of the section for each ask. The calculations are then detailed. The results of the calculations are visualised in Figure A1. The calculations are only approximations, so they should be considered as nothing more than initial, back-of-the-envelope calculations. We encourage you to consider the calculations and this graph as just one small component of the broader discussions that we give.


There is one assumption that applies to all three asks: in our calculations, we only consider chickens. Of course, the asks would apply to other farmed animals too (e.g. pigs, cows, and so on). However, considering only one group of animals makes the calculations much more straightforward for the third ask ("Decrease journey lengths"), as each different group of animals have different journey lengths. It is important for our calculations to be comparable across the three asks, so we consider only chickens across all three asks. We do not think that explicitly adding other groups of farmed animals to the calculations would add much more information in terms of decision-making. Chickens account for roughly 97% of farmed land animals transported in Poland, according to the report commissioned by Otwarte Klatki (27). This is also true across the EU in general (7,28). So, considering only chickens allows us to capture almost all of the impact of each ask.

Figure A1: The results of our approximate calculations in which we estimate the impact of three transport asks in Poland (increasing inspections, improving temperature limits, reducing journey times). The top panel shows animal-years helped (animal-years = individuals * duration of welfare improvement), and the bottom panel shows individuals helped. The red points show the moderate estimates in which we have most confidence. The dashed lines show the range of our upper and lower estimates for each ask.


Ask 1. More inspections / install security cameras

Regular inspection of transports with competent workers

Systemic increase of inspections of transports by Inspection of Road Transport (Inspekcja Transportu Drogowego - ITD)

Installation of surveillance on vehicle trailers during transport and during loading and unloading the animals


As a background to this ask, inspections and security cameras fall into a larger category of enforcement asks. We have previously done deep dives into enforcement - we conducted a detailed analysis on animal welfare enforcement in the UK (which we can share upon request), and we also reviewed the evidence for CCTV cameras as a specific enforcement intervention (see Animal Ask's report on CCTV in slaughterhouses, available here).


Our previous research has led us to conclude that, in most contexts, enforcement asks affect relatively few animals.


Enforcement asks work by reducing the number of violations of animal welfare regulations. While this effect is real, it is small - in other words, if you increase inspections or install security cameras, we would expect to see only a modest decrease in the number of violations of animal welfare regulations.

One reason for this is that the number of meaningful non-compliances - that is, events that a) violate animal welfare regulations, and b) actually harm animal welfare - is typically small to begin with. Based on the available data, which is scarce, we expect that meaningful non-compliances would affect roughly 0 - 20% of animals who are transported. Our best guess is about 2.95% (we explain these numbers in the calculations below).


Furthermore, a compliance ask can reduce the number of meaningful non-compliances, but we expect that this reduction would also be quite modest. Based on the available data, which is also scarce, we expect that additional enforcement or installing CCTV cameras could plausibly reduce compliance by roughly 5 - 30% as a percentage of non-compliances. Our best guess is about 10% (numbers detailed in calculations below).


If roughly 2.95% of animals are actually harmed by violations of animal welfare regulations, and additional enforcement actions (more personnel or CCTV) could reduce this number by around 10% as a percentage of non-compliances, then we can figure out how many animals benefit by multiplying those numbers together. We end up with:


2.95% * 10%

= ~0.3%


So, we would expect enforcement asks to actually benefit only about 0.3% of animals who are transported.


We explain this calculation mainly to illustrate the central principle explaining why we would expect this ask to have a relatively low impact: both of these numbers are fairly small, and multiplying two small percentages together gives you an even smaller percentage. Of course, the exact result depends on your best guess for the number of meaningful non-compliances and the effects of enforcement. To clarify, there is already an enforcement system in place - while this system is far from perfect, it does appear to be doing a decent job of preventing many animal welfare violations. This means that any additional improvements in the enforcement system would bring relatively small benefits.


The general principle holds across the range of realistic numbers. Even for our upper estimate, we think that the number of animals who benefit from additional inspections would be around 6% at most. This is a much smaller impact than even the other transport asks, which we turn to in the following sections.


Our model for this ask, detailed below, shows specific calculations along these lines.


Results of model:

  • The moderate estimate suggests that this ask could improve the lives of 3.5 million individual animals annually (lower estimate: 0.1 million; upper estimate: 89 million), which corresponds to 1,400 animal-years annually (lower: 57; upper 56,000).

  • Note that for this ask, we place most confidence in the moderate estimate.

Summary of input parameters and assumptions:

  • We model this ask as follows. We estimate the current rate of animal welfare non-compliances during transport in Poland, and then we estimate the percentage of these non-compliances that could be prevented by more inspections / the presence of security cameras. This allows us to roughly estimate the number of animals who would be spared from experiencing animal welfare non-compliances.

  • Chickens transported each year

    • 1.2 billion (lower, moderate estimates). According to the report commissioned by Otwarte Klatki, 1.2 billion is the number of chickens transported domestically in Poland (27).

    • 1.44 billion (upper estimate). According to the same source, 1.44 billion is the number of chickens transported domestically in Poland plus those chickens imported or exported (27).

  • Current rate of non-compliances on transport

    • 0.24% (lower estimate). This is the rate of non-compliances recorded in official data from inspections of Polish animal transport from 2007 - 2016, according to Wasilewski et al (29).

    • 2.95% (moderate estimate). This is the rate of non-compliances recorded in official data from inspections of Polish animal transport from 2015 - 2019, according to the report commissioned by Otwarte Klatki (27).

    • 20.69% (upper estimate). This is the rate of non-compliances recorded in official data from inspections of Polish animal transport from 2012 - 2017, according to Tereszkiewicz et al (30). The sample size is very small, so we do not think this estimate is as sound as the lower and moderate estimates. Notably, this figure is similar to 20.9%, which is the rate of non-compliances found in an academic analysis of official data of cow transports from France to Italy (31).

  • Decrease in rate of non-compliances due to additional inspections/CCTV

    • 5% (lower estimate); 10% (moderate estimate); 30% (upper estimate).

    • We do not have strong evidence about this parameter. We have used these three numbers as rough guesses, based on our informed judgement and previous research on animal welfare inspections.

    • All anecdotal evidence suggests that additional inspections / installing CCTV does reduce the number of non-compliances, so this percentage should be above 0%. A meta-analysis found an average 13% reduction in crime in public places after the installation of CCTV (not specific to animals) (32). Further context on the effects of surveillance cameras is provided in Animal Ask's report on CCTV in slaughterhouses, available here.

    • We have previously conducted research on the effect of inspections on non-compliances with farmed animal welfare legislation (not publicly available). Given that research, we would forecast that additional inspections could plausibly reduce the number of non-compliances by roughly 5 - 30%.

  • Average journey time (hours)

    • 3.5 hours (lower, moderate estimates). This is our best guess of the average journey time for journeys within a single EU state. This is simply two-thirds of the 5.5-hour figure used in the upper estimate (see next dot point), since that 5.5-hour figure corresponds to a journey between two EU member states.

    • 5.5 hours (upper estimate). This is a rough estimate of the duration of a journey between two EU member states, based on data reported by the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (7).

Ask 2. Improve temperature limits

Banning transports of animals when the temperature surpasses [a particular upper limit] and when it drops below [a particular lower limit]


Current EU legislation does not place any temperature limits on the transport of chickens, though the legislation does require vehicles to maintain a temperature of 5°C to 30°C for other species of farmed animals (33).


As we discussed above, chickens account for roughly 97% of farmed land animals transported in Poland (27). This means that roughly 97% of farmed land animals transported in Poland are not actually covered by any temperature limits.


Transporting chickens at temperatures that are too cold or too hot can cause cold stress or heat stress - each of these can cause the chickens to experience minor suffering, major suffering, and/or death. Optimal conditions depend on some other factors including genetics, feather cover, feed, dehydration status, and the conditions that the chickens are used to (7). Humidity is also a really important factor. The effects of temperature on the welfare of transported chickens is reviewed in detail in official reports from the EU and the UK (7,8).


What temperature limits could the Polish government feasibly be convinced to implement as a new regulation? Private certification schemes typically do not give specific temperature limits for the transport of chickens. Rather, they use qualitative guidelines (e.g. for chickens certified by Global Animal Partnership, "the thermal comfort of chicks must be maintained at all times"). The strongest specific temperature limits for the transport of chickens, as far as we know, come from the UK's new/future transport policy (8). Under this policy, transport of chickens will be banned when temperatures are below 5°C or above 25°C.


As such, we consider a couple of different potential limits on temperatures:

  • Banning transport when temperatures are below 5°C or above 25°C. These are the limits planned for chickens in the UK's new transport policy.

  • Banning transport when temperatures are below -10°C or above 30°C. These are the particular limits that were initially suggested to us as part of this ask.

There is one important distinction we need to make. The EU legislation for non-chicken animals considers internal temperatures (temperatures inside the vehicles), not external temperatures (weather conditions). The UK is moving towards regulating the external temperatures rather than internal temperatures. The choice of internal vs external would affect the impact of this ask. We don't know whether regulating the internal or the external temperature would lead to better outcomes for chickens (see discussions in official EU and UK reports (7,8)). Data on internal temperatures is scarce, but data on external temperatures (weather data) is easier to obtain. We mainly consider external temperatures in this discussion and the calculations that follow, but we expect that if regulations targeted internal temperatures instead, our conclusions would generally hold.


It is very difficult to find data for when transport companies actually transport chickens in Poland. For example, is transport more common during the day or during the night, and during summer or during winter? In the absence of this data, the best we can do is refer to weather data from Poland.


Figure A2 summarises the temperatures observed in Warsaw over a two-year period.

  • Temperatures are below 5°C or above 25°C for 64% of the time. This means that these particular limits could make temperatures more moderate during, at most, 64% of journeys. So, roughly 64% is an upper limit for the percentage of chickens transported in Poland who could benefit from these new temperature limits.

  • Temperatures are below -10°C or above 30°C for 1.5% of the time. This means that these particular limits could make temperatures more moderate during, at most, 1.5% of journeys. So, roughly 1.5% is an upper limit for the percentage of chickens transported in Poland who could benefit from these new temperature limits.

Figure A2: The temperature in Poland, from weather data.


This leaves us with two remaining uncertainties:

  • Firstly, if chickens are transported outside of a particular set of temperature limits, what percentage of those chickens would actually experience suffering due to heat stress or cold stress? Some chickens would cope and others would not. To accurately estimate the impact of this ask, it is important to know how many chickens would not cope. There have been some studies on the rates of mortality and different behaviours of chickens transported at various temperatures (34,35), but it is not immediately clear how these translate to heat stress or cold stress.

  • Secondly, what is the actual pattern of journeys (e.g. most common times of day or times of year) in which animals are transported in Poland? This would allow us to check whether the general weather data from Poland (Figure A2) is actually realistic, or whether we need to adjust it to account for the times of day or year during which animals are actually transported. This information could be obtained by, for example, asking transport companies.

Results of model:

  • The moderate estimate suggests that this ask could improve the lives of 65 million individual animals annually (lower estimate: 5 million; upper estimate: 77 million), which corresponds to 26,000 animal-years annually (lower: 2,000; upper: 49,000).

  • Note that this result depends heavily on the assumption for the percentage of chickens who would experience heat stress or cold stress at particular temperatures, and we do not have data to guide this assumption.

  • Note that for this ask, we place most confidence in the moderate estimate.

Summary of input parameters and assumptions:

  • We model this ask as follows. We roughly estimate the number of journeys that take place during existing temperature limits in Poland. We then roughly estimate the number of journeys that take place during plausible, stricter temperature limits in Poland. This allows us to roughly estimate the number of journeys, and thus the number of animals, that would experience more moderate temperatures due to this ask.

  • We assume that temperature limits apply to external temperatures. In fact, the EU legislation considers internal temperatures (temperatures inside the vehicles), not external temperatures. However, we do not have data on internal temperatures. Also, the UK is moving towards regulating the external temperatures rather than internal temperatures, so the EU could possibly follow suit.

  • We assume that journey times are randomly distributed throughout the day (e.g. equally likely to take place at 12pm vs 12am) and throughout the year (e.g. equally likely to take place in summer vs winter, etc). This is a necessary assumption because we don't have any data on when journeys actually occur. In fact, it is likely that journeys are non-random and more likely to take place at some times of day than others, and at some times of year than others - companies might tend to avoid transporting on days with extreme temperatures anyway, due to increased mortality and practical difficulties, though we're speculating here. Together, these first two assumptions allow us to use historical temperature data from Poland to make approximate guesses about the percentage of journeys that would be restricted by any particular temperature limit.

  • Chickens transported each year

    • 1.2 billion (lower, moderate estimates). See ask #1.

    • 1.44 billion (upper estimate). See ask #1.

  • Rate of compliance with temperature limits

    • 82% (lower, moderate, and upper estimates). This is approximately the compliance with temperature limits observed in a small study of temperature during EU animal transport (36).

  • Plausible reformed temperature limits

    • 5 - 25 degrees (lower, moderate estimates). These are the limits planned for chickens in the UK's new transport policy (8). It might therefore be reasonable for the EU and its member states, including Poland, to follow suit.

    • -10 to 30 degrees (upper estimate). These are the limits that were initially suggested to us as part of this ask. These are less stringent limits, and the government and industry might be more supportive of these limits than the above, stricter limits.

  • Percentage of chickens transported outside of these temperature limits who would experience temperature stress

    • 60% (lower estimate). We simply do not have sufficient data to make an informed estimate of this value. This is our best guess for the percentage of chickens transported outside of -10 and 30 degrees who would experience temperature stress.

    • 30% (moderate, upper estimates). Again, we simply do not have sufficient data. This is our best guess for the percentage of chickens transported outside of 5 and 25 degrees who would experience temperature stress.

  • Average journey time (hours)

    • 3.5 hours (lower, moderate estimates). See ask #1.

    • 5.5 hours (upper estimate). See ask #1.

Ask 3. Decrease journey lengths

Decreasing the length of transport of animals to a minimum within Poland


Current EU legislation does not specify maximum journey times for farmed chickens, though it does for other farmed animals (33).


As we discussed above, chickens account for roughly 97% of farmed land animals transported in Poland (27). This means that roughly 97% of farmed land animals transported in Poland are not actually covered by any journey time limits.


Transporting chickens for long periods of time can cause the chickens to suffer in a number of ways, including prolonged hunger and thirst, motion stress, restriction of movement, sensory overstimulation (7). Longer journeys typically result in more chickens dying during the journey (37). The effects of journey lengths on the welfare of transported chickens is reviewed in detail in official reports from the EU and the UK (7,8).


Numerous studies have consistently shown that shorter journey times result in lower percentages of birds being dead-on-arrival (DOA) (38–43). DOA is considered to be an "iceberg indicator", as it is strongly related to the welfare of chickens during transport (7). Furthermore, there is no particular threshold below which DOA is steady - even when journey lengths are already quite short, further reductions still cause DOA to decrease. As such, we can be quite confident that reducing journey lengths would improve the welfare of chickens transported in Poland, regardless of what the new (shorter) limit may be.


What journey time limits could the Polish government feasibly be convinced to implement as a new regulation? Under the UK's new policy, broiler journeys will be limited to 4 hours plus loading, and chick journeys will be limited to 24 hours (8). RSPCA Assured limits journeys to 4 hours for broilers (maximum of 8 hours from loading to slaughter) and 8 hours for hens. Global Animal Partnership limits journeys for broilers to 6 hours (11).


As such, for our analysis, we consider hypothetical new limits of 4 hours or 8 hours for all adult chickens.


We limit the following analysis to adult chickens. Even under the strictest policies we're aware of (e.g. new UK policy), day-old chicks can be transported for up to 24 hours. We have seen no indication that day-old chicks are commonly transported for longer than this in the EU, and this is supported by the data we summarise below. That said, day-old chicks are exported from the EU to countries including Albania, Belarus, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco and Ukraine (7). As such, we do not consider day-old chicks in our analysis, though we do encourage any campaign on animal welfare in the EU to include a 24-hour limit on day-old chick transport.


Most journeys of chickens in the EU are quite short with 51% of journeys across member states being less than 4 hours (Figure A3). The estimates in Figure A3 only consider data from journeys that cross member state borders - it is possible that this overestimates the average journey durations in the EU as a whole, as we would expect journeys within a single member state to generally be shorter than journeys across member states.


As such, even relatively strict journey limits (e.g. 6 or 8 hours) would affect only a relatively small percentage of journeys. We go into more detail on the numbers below, but to briefly illustrate: imagine if journeys were limited to 8 hours. In this case, the industry would be forced to reconfigure all journeys that are currently above 8 hours. We can guess that the average journey length would then be a little bit below 8 hours, as the industry's response may involve building new slaughterhouses around the country. Let us assume that the new, 8-hour limit causes the average journey length to be reduced to roughly 6 - 8 hours.


Looking at Figure A3, we can see that this would affect about 27% of journeys (as 11% of journeys are 8 - 12 hours, and 16% are above 12 hours). But it is possible that this would likely just reduce those journey lengths to about 6 - 8 hours. So, for the 11% of journeys of 8 - 12 hours, these journeys might be reduced to 6 - 8 hours. For the 16% of journeys of greater than 12 hours, these journeys might also be reduced to 6 - 8 hours. The total effect of this new limit would therefore be something like: the journey time of 11% of chickens is reduced by about 3 hours, and the journey time of 16% of chickens is reduced by about 7 hours. Since the data in Figure A3 probably overestimates the true, average journey durations, the effect might be even smaller than this.


In other words, even relatively strict limits would mostly just shave a few hours off the journey for a small percentage of animals.


Furthermore, as was also the case for temperature limits (above), it is unclear what percentage of chickens who experience shorter journeys would actually experience better welfare as a result. Many chickens may be able to cope with the last 2 - 6 hours of a long journey, though many may not. Numerous studies have shown that shorter journey times consistently reduce the percentage of chickens who are dead-on-arrival (DOA) (38–43). Since DOA is strongly related to welfare, this is solid evidence that shorter journey times can improve welfare. While this is valuable information, the data is at the level of the flock, not the individual. As such, these studies do not provide the exact number of chickens in any one flock who would experience worse welfare from longer journeys.

Figure A3: Journey times for chickens in the EU for journeys across EU member states. The pie chart shows the percentage of journeys at different durations (e.g. 51% of journeys are less than 4 hours). This data only includes journeys across EU member states, meaning that this data overestimates the average journeys experienced by chickens in the EU as a whole - journeys within a single member state may be shorter than the journeys that cross member state borders. Graph from (7)


Results of quantitative model:

  • The moderate estimate suggests that this ask could improve the lives of 63 million individual animals annually (lower estimate: 31 million; upper estimate: 206 million), which corresponds to 46,000 animal-years annually (lower: 16,000; upper 178,000).

  • Note that for this ask, we place most confidence in the moderate estimate.

Summary of input parameters and assumptions:

  • We model this ask as follows. We set a plausible duration limit to which journeys could be limited in Poland. For journeys above this limit, we calculate a rough average journey time. We do the same for journeys below this limit. This allows us to roughly estimate how the average journey time would be reduced as a result of implementing a new duration limit. By incorporating information on the percentage of journeys currently above the new, hypothetical limit, we can calculate the number of animals who would experience a shorter journey.

  • We assume that this ask could reduce journey times for adult chickens, but not new chicks. In the strictest transport policies that we're aware of (e.g. the new UK policy), adult chicken journeys can be limited to very short times (4-8 hours) but the journeys of new chicks are only limited to 24 hours, which is the same as current EU legislation.

  • Adult chickens transported each year:

    • Note that this differs from the "chickens transported each year" in the above two asks, as our assumption (above) is that this ask only reduces journey time for adult chickens.

    • In the EU, about 58% of chickens transported across member states are adult chickens (7). We assume that 58% of chickens transported in Poland are adult chickens. This results in the following estimates:

    • 700 million (lower and moderate estimate), which is 58% of 1.2 billion (see ask #1).

    • 840 million (upper estimate), which is 58% of 1.44 billion (see ask #1).

  • New journey limit (hours):

    • 8 hours (lower and moderate estimate). In the RSPCA Assured standards, journeys for hens are limited to 8 hours (9). In practice, if this limit were established, the average journey might end up being a little bit below the new limit.

    • 4 hours (upper estimate). In the new UK policy and RSPCA Assured standards, journeys for broilers are limited to 4 hours (8,44).

  • Percentage of chickens transported for longer than these journey limits who would experience suffering:

    • 25% (lower estimate). We simply do not have sufficient data to make an informed estimate of this value, so we have used a plausible stand-in value for each scenario.

    • 50% (moderate estimate).

    • 75% (upper estimate).

  • Percentage of current journeys that exceed the new limit:

    • 18% (lower estimate). Data provided by the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare shows that 27% of journeys between member states involving chickens are longer than 8 hours. Since we're actually interested in journeys within a single member state, the 27% is probably an overestimate. So, we multiply the 27% by two-thirds to very roughly account for this, resulting in 18%.

    • 33%. Data provided by the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare shows that 49% of journeys between member states involving chickens are longer than 4 hours. Since we're actually interested in journeys within a single member state, the 49% is probably an overestimate. We multiply the 49% by two-thirds to very roughly account for this, resulting in 33%.

  • We calculate the reduction in journey time as: average journey time for journeys that do exceed the new limit minus average journey time for journeys that do not exceed the new limit.

    • For journeys that do exceed the new limit, average journey time (hours):

      • 12.37 hours (lower and moderate estimates). This is an approximate estimate based on data provided by the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare.

      • 9.51 hours (upper estimate). This is an approximate estimate based on data provided by the EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare.

    • For journeys that do not exceed the new limit, average journey time (hours):

      • 8 hours (lower estimate). This conservatively assumes that the average journey time will be reduced to exactly the new, 8-hour limit.

      • 6 hours (moderate estimate). This is a guess, assuming that the average journey time will be reduced to a bit below the new, 8-hour limit (which we believe is more likely).

      • 2 hours (upper estimate). This is a guess, assuming that the average journey time will be reduced to a bit below the new, 4-hour limit (which we believe is more likely).

APPENDIX 2: THREE CASE STUDIES

In this Appendix, we discuss three case studies relating to animal welfare during transport around the world. We have selected these case studies to get a rough idea of what animal welfare during transport looks like for a range of different farmed animal species in a range of different industries and countries (though we acknowledge that our selection is mostly arbitrary). The purpose of this Appendix is to provide some background information to guide Part 1 of the report (above) - there, we conclude that improving animal welfare during transport appears to be less urgent than other animal welfare asks, such as improving animal welfare on-farm and during slaughter.


Our three case studies are: 1) the live transport of chickens in the EU, 2) the live export of sheep and cows from Australia, and 3) the live transport of fish in China.


For each of these three case studies, we give a brief description of the industry, before outlining the scale, duration of suffering, and main welfare problems caused by the transport of live animals.


All three of these case studies arrive at similar conclusions: the animals appear to frequently experience welfare challenges and suffering. However, when you account for the animals who are farmed but not transported, less than 1% of the lives of farmed animals are experienced during transport. In other words, transport accounts for only a very small component of the welfare of farmed animals.


Case study 1: Transport of chickens in the EU

Our first case study is the live transport of chickens in the EU. We chose to focus on the EU because there are many animal advocacy organisations considering campaigning to improve animal welfare during transport in the EU. We limit this case study to chickens as they account for the vast majority (well over 90%) of the animals transported in the EU (7,28).


The transport of chickens in the EU can be divided into three main categories: domestic transport (between two locations within a single member state); intra-EU trade (between two countries in the EU); and live export (from an EU country to a non-EU country)1.


The scale of the transport of chickens in the EU, as one component of the chickens' lives, is summarised in the following table.

There are a number of sources that can provide some indication as to the welfare conditions and severity of suffering experienced by chickens transported in the EU. The main sources are as follows.

  • The key piece of legislation governing the welfare of animals transported in the EU is Council Regulation 1/2005 (33). This Regulation contains provisions on: the fitness of animals for transport; suitable means for transport; loading and unloading; training and handling; and space, food and water. Journeys over 8 hours are subject to further provisions. The Regulation also applies to animals being exported from the EU, even after leaving the EU (46).

  • The EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare recently published a detailed report of the welfare of chickens during transport in the EU (7). The Panel found that the major welfare consequences facing adult chickens during transport are '(i) handling stress, (ii) injuries, (iii) restriction of movement, (iv) sensory overstimulation, (v) motion stress, (vi) heat stress, (vii) cold stress, (viii) prolonged hunger, and (ix) prolonged thirst'. For day-old chicks during transport, the major welfare consequences are '(i) handling stress, (ii) sensory overstimulation, (iii) motion stress, (iv) heat stress, (v) cold stress, (vi) prolonged hunger and (vii) prolonged thirst'. The Panel's report contains a literature review on each of these welfare consequences, including prevalences for some.

  • When it comes to animals transported in the EU in general, the main welfare issues are the transport of unfit animals; loading and unloading; and overcrowding and temperatures during transport (46). There have been a number of reports - written by the government, animal advocacy organisations, or academics - showing that Regulation 1/2005 is not properly enforced (46). The main breaches involve the transport of unfit animals and the failure to meet requirements on stocking density, temperature, rest, feed and water, and bedding (47,48). Independent analysis of official data shows frequent non-compliance with requirements for rest and limits on journey durations (31).

  • There appear to be major welfare challenges caused by live export in particular. Official reports concluded that 'most transporters do not meet applicable EU rules after leaving the Union' (49) and that, at the EU-Turkey border specifically, lengthy border delays and heat stress mean that 'there is a high risk of causing unnecessary pain and distress to animals transported on this route during hot days' (45).

The above evidence suggests that it could be pretty common for animals transported in the EU to experience at least moderate suffering, despite legislation that aims to prevent this. We acknowledge that the picture is complicated and would depend on many factors, like country, time of year, trade route, etc.


Case study 2: Live export from Australia

Our second case study is the live export of sheep and cows from Australia. We chose this industry as Australia has the largest live export industry in the world (50,51). Also, the industry has come under serious public criticism over the past few decades - including highly publicised campaigns by animal advocacy organisations - due to the poor welfare conditions and long journey times experienced by the sheep and cows (50).


Most animals exported live from Australia are sheep and cows. We limit this case study to sheep and cows, as over 98% of animals exported live from Australia are sheep and cows (though only a small minority of sheep and cows produced in Australia are exported live - see table below) (52). We only consider animals transported by sea, which accounts for around 98% of the industry (the rest being by air) (53).


The scale of the live export of animals from Australia, as one component of the animals' lives, is summarised in the following table.

There are a number of sources that can provide some indication as to the welfare conditions and severity of suffering experienced by sheep and cows exported live from Australia. The main sources are as follows.

  • The legal standards governing animal health and welfare during live export are the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (currently at version 3.2). These Standards regulate the sourcing of animals, animals' on-farm preparation, land transport, vessel preparation and loading, and on-board management of animal health and welfare (59). Specific areas of health and welfare that are covered include space requirements, temperature limits, feed requirements, and veterinary medicines, as well as the thresholds at which mortality levels must be reported.

  • There have recently been a few government reviews of animal welfare during live export. The Technical Advisory Committee reviewed the ability of the previous version (2.3) of the standards to ensure the welfare of animals (59). The Committee suggested a number of changes relating to sourcing and preparation of the animals, space requirements, heat stress, and on-board management (e.g. bedding, fodder, personnel). The McCarthy Review was a more specific, shorter review on the health and welfare of the sheep during the Northern Hemisphere summer (60). McCarthy concluded that a number of changes were needed, mainly relating to space requirements, heat stress, and enforcement of the Standards.

  • A number of academic publications have reviewed the state of animal welfare during live export from Australia. Phillips (51) lists the numerous factors that harm animal welfare before, during, and after the ship voyage - these include mustering, shearing (for sheep), transport to feedlots, reduced food and water intake, road and rail transport, loading, unloading, and several changes of environment that can cause fear and anxiety. On the ships, the major stressors are likely to be disease, heat stress, high stocking densities, high ammonia levels, food availability, stress, noise, and disturbance to lighting patterns. The whole process, beginning on farms in Australia and ending with slaughter in the importing country, can last 1-2 months during which the animals can be handled 5-6 times. Phillips and Santurtun (61) concluded that 'there are significant risks to the welfare of livestock caused by transporting them in ships, especially over long distances'. And Foster and Overall (50) point out that, compared to other live-exporting countries, Australia's live export involves much longer distances and journeys. They also discuss the poor enforcement and problems with the regulatory regime.

  • There have also been some major incidents publicised in the media. In 2017-18, the media published undercover footage, taken on voyages from Australia to the Middle East and provided by Animals Australia, that showed sheep on the voyages experiencing severe suffering (60,62). This motivated the government to commission an independent review into the standards of sheep exported to the Middle East and to accelerate the review timeline for the broader standards that apply to the entire live export industry (see above reviews). There were similar publicised incidents in 2011 when Animals Australia conducted an investigation into conditions in slaughterhouses in Indonesia, and 2012, when a shipload of allegedly diseased sheep were slaughtered en masse in Pakistan. Following the 2011 incident, the federal government attempted to place stricter regulations on the industry, though this was later ruled unlawful in a court decision (63,64).

The above evidence suggests that intense suffering during live export from Australia could be common, despite government attempts to improve regulations.


Notably, Australia's live export industry has steadily declined in numbers over the past few years. In the 2021/22 financial year, there were 1.1 million animals exported - this is a substantial decline from the 2.9 million in 2017/18 (52). This decline has occurred in the context of stricter regulations on the live export industry (62). The Labor government currently in power in Australia has committed to phasing out the industry over time (5).


It is also worth noting that the animals exported live from Australia are often grown further by farmers in the importing country. For this period of the animals' lives, the animals' welfare would be governed by the laws in the importing country, not Australia. It is possible that the importing countries have weaker animal welfare laws than Australia does. But Australia's animal welfare laws are not great (65,66), so this is not certain and could be worth investigating further. Abolishing live export from Australia would mean that the animals spend their entire lives in Australia with their welfare governed by Australia's laws, rather than part of their lives in the importing country. Likewise, if animals experience injuries and psychological trauma from transport, a longer period between transport and slaughter might increase the suffering that is caused by these problems. Both of these factors could provide additional benefits of banning live export. Merely reforming the conditions on live export ships, as opposed to banning live export entirely, would not have this effect.


Case study 3: Transport of fish in China

Our third case study is the live transport of fish in China. We chose this industry due to its immense scale - fish are the most numerous group of farmed vertebrates2 (67), and China is the country that farms the most fish by far (68,69). In fact, in any given year, there are almost as many farmed fish slaughtered in China than there are farmed land animals slaughtered on the entire planet (6,68,69). The evidence suggests that almost all fish farmed in China are transported live, as customers typically have a preference for live or freshly killed fish (70,71). Notably, around 7% of fish produced in China die during transport3 (71,72). This not only means that the transport of fish in China is the largest of live vertebrates on the planet, but also that the fish might experience immense suffering during this transport.


In this case study, we only consider transport of fish from farm to market. It is possible that fish are transported at other points in their lives too (e.g. the transport of fry (71)), but we have not looked into that. We only consider domestic transport - for a comparison between domestic and international markets for fish produced in China, see Zhang et al (73) and Zhang et al (74).

Generally speaking, common welfare problems experienced by fish during live transport involve stocking density, handling, water quality, water movement, loading and unloading, physical damage, air exposure, and food deprivation (12–14,71). Handling and transport commonly cause acute and chronic stress, with transported fish showing physiological stress responses (12,71). Welfare needs differ depending on species, life stage, and environment (12).


In China specifically, there are a few sources that provide details about the experiences of fish during live transport.

  • Pond loaches are one of the most numerous fish species farmed in China (69), and most or all of the pond loaches farmed in China are probably transported live. Most pond loaches farmed in China appear to be sold locally, though some are exported to Korea or Taiwan (76).

  • Yang et al (71) conducted interviews with stakeholders involved in live fish transport in China. Fish are typically transported in sealed tanks or, for small-scale transport, plastic bags or foam boxes. Before transport, fish are often captured manually using dipnets, or sometimes with pumps or cage traps. Loading can occur a few hours before transport starts, and there may also be a wait between transport and unloading. Customers may take fish home alive in sealed plastic bags. Live transport typically happens in winter rather than summer, as summer temperatures can cause poorer fish health and lower survival rates. The use of anaesthetics is uncommon. Some respondents believed that aquatic animals were not sentient, or that animal welfare is only relevant to land animals, though others believed that welfare should be considered for fish as it is for land animals.

  • Jia et al (75) reports on the transport of three species: Chinese perch, largemouth bass, and longsnout catfish. Together, these species account for about 3% of fish farmed in China. Jia et al's study examines transport from production in Guandong province to wholesalers in Beijing. Wholesalers report mortality with reports varying from very low (e.g. 0%) to very high (e.g. 60% or even 100% in some cases). Before transport, fish are captured on farms and moved to containers filled with pond water and equipped with oxygen cylinders. These containers are taken via truck to company processing plants where fish are unloaded and sorted into tanks before being anaesthetised with carbon dioxide and kept in holding tanks for 3 - 12 hours. During the main journey, fish are transported in water and ice in styrofoam boxes, which are connected to an oxygen cylinder. Each box is about 26 litres and can hold 10 - 25 kg of fish (roughly 15 - 30 individuals). Each truck carries up to 600 boxes. The journey is 2,300 km, which takes 30 - 48 hours. Fish can be offloaded directly to wholesalers or transferred to another truck for transport to other markets. When the fish arrive at the market, it can be 1 - 3 hours until the customer receives the fish.

  • Nie et al (77) give an overview of live fish transport in China. There are many different transportation methods and packaging methods, depending on the journey distance, the volume of fish being transported, the customer (e.g. wholesalers vs restaurants), etc. While other countries often use specialist transport vehicles, Chinese fish transport instead involves modified trucks. This makes it more difficult to control the environment during transportation, which contributes to the low survival rate of fish. The use of anaesthesia can improve the survival rate and increase the transport density. The authors discuss the development of "less water" and "no water" transportation techniques, which first originated in Japan. This involves inducing a state of dormancy in the fish and transporting the fish in containers with very little or no water, before awakening the fish at the end of the journey. This technique is being developed in China, though it has not yet seen widespread uptake in China.

  • It has been estimated that 7% (by weight) of fish produced in China die during transport (71,75). This high mortality has been attributed to inappropriate transport procedures and monitoring.

  • There is a code of practice for the transport of live fish in China (78). This code outlines practices for packaging, the environmental conditions of the fish, food safety, and so on.

Although the evidence is scarce, these sources suggest that it could be common for fish to experience intense suffering during live transport in China. Fish welfare is not legally protected during transport in China, and stakeholders appear to have little concern for fish welfare.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We would like to acknowledge the help of Yip Fai Tse, who assisted in Chinese-language searches relating to fish transport.


NOTES

For transparency, we would like to point out that we have used data from Open Philanthropy (69) as a source for fish numbers in our case study on fish transport in China. Open Philanthropy is a funder of Animal Ask. However, Open Philanthropy had no input into this report, and you can reach the same conclusions using data from Fishcount (68) instead.


1. There is also live import, from a non-EU country to an EU country, which we have not considered here. Compared to the other three types of transport of chickens in the EU, live import into the EU happens on a relatively small scale - the number of chickens imported into the EU is less than 1% the number of chickens subject to any other of the three types of transport that we do consider (28).

2. Invertebrates, like insects and shrimp, are farmed in far greater numbers than even fish.

3. Though this 7% claim is often repeated in the literature, we have not been able to find the original data supporting it.


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