Animal Welfare: Rules make slaughter trips more humane

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The Independent Online
New rules came into force yesterday to protect farm animals being carried on long lorry journeys to slaughter on the Continent. Nicholas Schoon explains how they will work

Livestock traders taking cattle, sheep, pigs, goats or horses on journeys longer than eight hours, or anywhere by sea or air, now need a government licence, and to date more than 300 have been granted.

They will also have to file journey plans detailing rest and food breaks, and ensure employees accompanying the animals have enough training and experience to handle them properly. The new law lays down maximum times spent on the road and minimum rest periods

Peter Stevenson, of the campaign group Compassion in World Farming, welcomed the rules. But he pointed out that farm animals could still be taken down to Spain and Italy in very long journeys, provided they had a day-long break in the middle. ``The only humane solution is to stop this overseas trade in live animals for slaughter altogether,'' he said.

The rules, to be reviewed after a year, implement a 1995 European Union directive six months late. Half the Union's member states failed to meet the legal deadline for implementing this directive through their own laws.

Animal welfare minister Elliot Morley warned: ``I intend to make full use of the new powers in the legislation which allow for the withdrawal of the authorisations of transporters who break the rules.''

The European Commission is also more than a year late in producing detailed specifications for lorries which carry farm animals. In their absence, Britain will continue with its own 22-year-old vehicle standards for live animal transport. Mr Morley said the Government would step up the pressure on the European Commission and other EU member states to agree on these specifications.

Young farm animals can travel for nine hours before a minimum rest period off the vehicle of one hour, followed by a further nine hours' travel. Adult cattle and sheep can travel for 14 hours before a minimum rest of one hour, followed by a further 14 hours' travel.

Live cattle exports from Britain have ceased following the BSE ban on UK beef exports.