Animal transport needs common rules on safety
Given the vital role that the safe transport of animals plays in Scotland’s livestock industry, NFU Scotland has promised to direct significant time and resources towards its responses to recent Defra and Scottish Government consultations on the issue.
The Defra consultation relates to journeys in or partly in England and Wales - and the key elements are a proposed ban on the live export of stock for further finishing or slaughter and restrictions on journey length and conditions, including outside temperature during transport, headroom and stocking density.
The Scottish consultation looks at the Farm Animal Welfare Council report into animal transport and seeks views on how Scotland might implement the report’s recommendations.
“The ability to transport livestock safely is central to the Scottish livestock industry and I have taken more calls on this single issue in the past few weeks than any other policy subject,” said union vice-president, Charlie Adam.
These included English proposals that stock could not be transported if the temperature fell below five degrees centigrade – a move which could see many markets in Scotland threatened with the prospect of no stock for much of the winter period.
Adam said that regardless of whether journeys were made by land or sea, Scotland had an excellent record in ensuring all animal health and welfare requirements in transit were met.
“These consultations will re-examine fundamental transport requirements that have been in place since the EU Transport of Animals directive was agreed in 2005.”
He said that the requirements, which included controls on issues such as journey times, rest periods, stocking densities, vehicle standards, vehicle certification and driver competence, had been well policed and adhered to in Scotland for more than 15 years.
“The importance of transport to livestock producers on Scotland’s islands and in more remote areas is paramount and members from those regions have been quickest to voice their concerns to NFUS on the proposals,” said Adam.
But while the union was keen to consult with the other bodies involved in carrying out and policing animal movements, he also urged all farmers and crofters to find the time to respond directly.
Adam added that the fact that parallel consultations on the subject of animal transport were taking place in Scotland and England and Wales at the same time meant there would be an immediate post-Brexit test of the integrity of the UK market.
“And the Northern Ireland protocol and the subsequent agreements also adds another layer to the challenge with movement rules for livestock transport from Scotland to Ulster and vice versa.”
He said the reviews raised the prospect that those who regularly transported livestock at home or abroad would have to juggle with three sets of rules – Scottish, English and Welsh and European.
“Having regulations that are complementary rather than contradictory will be critical in safeguarding Scottish agriculture’s interests in the UK and EU markets,” he said.