- Every year, millions of livestock is transported within and outside of the European Union for trade purposes.
- Trade reasons can be various, among those: breeding, fattening and slaughtering.
- Intra-EU trade of livestock represents 85% of transports, while 15% of transport is headed to extra-EU destinations.
- In 2019, about 1.4 billion bovines, swine, poultry, ovine, caprine and equines were traded across the EU Member States.
- Poultry is the most traded farm animal in Europe. 98% of intra-EU trade and 97% of extra-EU trade (as expressed in numbers of animals transported) are represented by this species.
Every year, millions of live animals are transported within and outside of the European Union (EU) for trade purposes (EPRS, 2020). Animals can be traded for diverse reasons such as essential domestic transport (transport from the farm to a slaughterhouse, or transport of cattle-fattening farms), breeding, relocation of companion animals or trade of laboratory animals.
Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations (“Transport Regulation”) is the current EU legislative framework to ensure the welfare during movement of live animals. It aims at avoiding injury or undue suffering to animals during transport, setting minimum requirements for fitness for transport, loading densities, journey and resting times, availability of water and feed, transport organisation and driver requirements. It applies to all live vertebrate animals transported in connection with an economic activity within the European Union, as well as to all consignments entering or leaving the customs territory of the Community (EPRS, 2018). However, the regulation does not apply to the transport of animals not in connection with an economic activity or to the transport to or from a veterinary practice or clinics, under the advice of a veterinarian (Article 1.5.of Regulation (EC) 1/2005). Moreover, there is a derogation for the transport of registered equines and their transport for non-commercial purposes such as competition, races, cultural events or breeding (Eurogroup for animals (EFA), 2021). Data on the transport of traded animals are not always available as the Transport Regulation (Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005) does not require Member States (MSs) to collect and report them in a harmonised way (EFA, 2021).
This in-depth analysis will focus on drivers of livestock transports within the EU and trade with third countries. Livestock includes bovines, swine, poultry, ovine, caprine and equines. Data will either refer to the entire animal category (e.g. ovines) or is else specified by the concrete age group or species (e.g. sheep or goats).
In 2019, about 1.4 billion bovines, swine, poultry, ovine and caprine and equines were traded across EU Member States. Extra-EU trade amounted to roughly 230 million animals of the same species. Poultry is the most traded farm animal species representing about 97 % of the intra-EU trade and 98 % of extra-EU trade (as expressed in numbers of animals transported) (EFA, 2021). Intra-EU trade represented 85 % of the farmed animal transport (including equines) in 2019 with the remaining 15 % corresponding to extra-EU trade (Figure 1). The intra-EU transport of poultry, ovine, caprine and swine was higher than the extra-EU transports, while bovines and equines trade to extra-EU countries dominated their intra-EU trade (EFA, 2021).
Livestock transport is a major animal welfare concern. Animals are exposed to the stress of loading and unloading, hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and lack of space and rest during transit (EFA, 2021). Furthermore, in case of sea transport, the inadequacy of more than half of the operating vessels can pose a serious welfare risk (Boada-Saña et al., 2021). There is a lack of regular feedback from third countries on the conditions of the animals during transport and at arrival (DG SANTE 2019-6835).
The presence of veterinarians cannot always be guaranteed at the farm or at the point of loading. Farmers, drivers and inspectors experience difficulties in recognising the unfitness of livestock to be transported (EPRS, 2018).
While the Transport Regulation seeks to overcome these issues, there are a number of problems that remain to be solved, such as: the long-distance transports of unweaned calves, the need to ascertain the state of pregnancy, the extent to which the journey logs are checked, the relationship between infringements, enforcement and penalities, the ‘mixed’ impact of training, education and certification, border control and so on (EPRS, 2018).
The European Parliament (), the European Court of Auditors () as well as many academic analysis and NGO reports have noted that, despite the adoption and entry into force of Council Regulation (EC) Nº 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport(), the degree of progress in the implementation of many of its provisions by Member States has been insufficient to meet the regulation’s objectives. As a result, weaknesses still persist in certain areas related to welfare issues during transport.
In this context, the European Parliament decided to set up the Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport (“ANIT Committee”) on 19 June 2020 to investigate alleged violations in the application of EU law on the protection of animals during transport and related operations within and outside the EU, including by air, road, rail and sea. The work of the ANIT Committee is focused on how EU rules are being implemented by Member States and whether the EU Commission is enforcing them properly ().
This research project is meant to provide the ANIT Committee Members with an overview of the main characteristics of animal transport in the EU and to third countries.
While the hearings and workshops organised by the ANIT Committee covered specific aspects of the transport of live animals within and outside the EU, this overview of the patterns of transport in the EU and to third countries will complete the sectoral or topical approach to provide input to the Committee’s final report. In doing so, this in-depth analysis will, whenever possible, build on the research already delivered to the ANIT Committee ().
 European Resolution of 14 February 2019 on the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) Nº 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport within and outside the EU; European Implementation Assessment on the Regulation (EC) Nº 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations, European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS), October 2018.
 European Court of Auditors, Special report Nº 31/2018 – Animal welfare in the EU: closing the gap between ambitious goals and practical implementation, 14 November 2018.
 Council Regulation (EC) Nº 1/2005 of 22 December 2004 on the protection of animals during transport and related operations (consolidated text).
 ANIT Committee Web page
 for the transport to third countries see the conclusions of the ANIT Hearing on ‘The transport of live animals to third countries’ https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2021/690877/IPOL_STU(2021)690877_EN.pdf organised on 1 March 2021 and the workshop on ‘The practices of animal welfare during transport in third countries: an overview’ https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2021/690877/IPOL_STU(2021)690877_EN.pdf held on 25 May 2021.