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Defra confirms future policy for the welfare of pigs at transport

18th Aug 2021 / By Alistair Driver

The Government has confirmed a ban on the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, but it has listened to NPA concerns on other proposed changes to animal transport rules.

The live export ban will apply to livestock and horses for slaughter and fattening, whether travelling from or through England and Wales. Whilst the NPA didn’t agree with the proposed ban because there is no scientific reason why transporting pigs in this way would compromise their welfare, we don’t export pigs for fattening or slaughter and so this does not affect the UK pig sector. 

Some of the other changes announced today as Defra unveiled its response to its consultation on ‘Improvements to animal welfare in transport’, including on journey times, space allowance and temperature requirements, have been welcomed by the NPA. But there are still some areas of concern where further consideration and evidence will be required.

NPA response

Rebecca Veale 2NPA senior policy adviser Rebecca Veale said: “We are pleased that Government has clearly listened to our and our members’ concerns and acknowledged the practicalities of transporting pigs in this country and the knock-on implications this can have for pig welfare.

“There are, however, specific areas where although Defra has made changes to policy, we need to consider the subsequent impact on the pig sector. As always, it is vital that policy is based on science and evidence, taken together with practical considerations.

“This will allow policy to move forward in a sensible manner and raise the already high standards of welfare met by producers today. The recognition of this by Defra is welcome and we will continue to engage with them on the various areas of importance.”

Key changes in transport policy

You can read the Government's full response HERE

Rebecca has outlined the key changes announced by Defra today: 

Live animal exports

  • Government confirms it will proceed with a ban on the export of livestock (cattle, sheep, goats and pigs) and horses from England, Wales and Scotland for slaughter and fattening.

NPA lobbied for policy to be based on science and evidence – this policy had already been announced and was a manifesto commitment.

Journey time

  • A maximum journey time of 18 hours for pigs with an exception for breeding pigs if additional criteria are met (to be agreed with stakeholders).

NPA success: Breeding pigs will be considered differently from finished pigs.

Next steps: NPA will work with Defra to explore what the additional criteria for breeding pigs will be and look at the implications of the new maximum journey time for other pigs.

  • A maximum journey time of 12 hours for newly weaned pigs, in line with scientific evidence and, taking on board comments from industry, to allow pigs to receive necessary vaccinations during unloading in order to minimise handling.

NPA success: Timelines increased to allow for vaccinations.


  • For livestock and horses, Government will prohibit short journeys of less than 8 hours where the external temperature is above 30°C. Long journeys of over 8 hours would be prohibited where the external temperature is outside of 0 to 25°C. In both cases, journeys could take place outside these ranges if the vehicle is able to regulate the internal temperature within this range for the duration of the journey by means of a thermo-regulation system.

NPA lobbied for internal temperature to be considered in line with current regulation (UK and EU).

Next steps: NPA will ask Defra to define thermoregulation systems and what would be accepted and assess the impact of this policy.

  • Government will not take forward the proposed lower temperature limit for short journeys and will decrease the proposed lower temperature for long journeys to 0°C.

NPA success: The lower temperature parameter was reduced in line with current regulation (UK and EU).

Stocking density

  • The government proposes to undertake further work with a range of stakeholders, to gather a greater evidence base and understand better the practical implications of using allometric principles before bringing forward any further proposals.

NPA success: NPA asked Defra to provide evidence to allow space allowance policy for pigs to be considered properly.

Next steps: NPA to engage with Defra on the plans for this work and provide information and examples where possible to demonstrate the practical implications for the pig sector.


  • Government to introduce new headroom allowances of 10cm above head height for pigs and 20cm above head height for all other animals. Many pig industry representatives stated that a lot of headroom was not required by pigs, as they commonly lie down during transport. We acknowledge this is a common behaviour during transport; however not all pigs will lie down for the entire duration of the journey and adequate headroom is also required to ensure adequate ventilation.

NPA success: whilst NPA asked for deck heights and European guidance to be considered, the point raised with regard to pig behaviour was acknowledged.

Sea Transport

  • There is not enough evidence to make specific decisions on transporting animals in Beaufort Wind Force 6 or above. The decision on whether to allow live animals to travel on a Roll-on Roll-off ferry in extreme weather will therefore be left to the discretion of the ship’s captain.

NPA success: Defra will not implement their proposals, fully in line with NPA asks.

Other asks

Defra noted points raised by NPA, and others, and they intend to undertake further work and engagement with stakeholders to work up more detailed proposals. NPA will engage with Defra on these three key work areas.

  • The importance of regular and formalised training for transporters of live animals
  • Improved enforcement of the regulations
  • Guidance on an animal’s fitness to travel.