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BPC says proposed safeguards on welfare in transport rules may not reflect modern practices

The British Poultry Council has issued a statement on Defra's consultation on welfare in transport, arguing that the proposed measures are based on outdated research.

4 March 2021, at 8:47am

British Poultry Council, Chief Executive, Richard Griffiths, said:

“Bird welfare in the UK is world-class, science-based, and continually improving. Health and well-being of our birds is of the highest priority and in everyone’s interest. We are disappointed that the Government consultation suggests implementing significant changes to the requirements for the transport of birds without investing in the necessary scientific research and evidence base to support such changes. It is crucial that further research is conducted to assess welfare in transport using modern broiler genotypes and transport systems. Making legislative changes without latest research would be both premature and potentially damaging to the strides made in bird welfare during transport over the last 25 years.”

What is wrong with Defra’s proposals?

Defra’s proposals can potentially cripple British poultry meat supply chain as they prevent the consistent, secure, and just-in-time flow of birds from farms to processing plants. These proposals will cause significant disruption to the poultry meat supply chain and severely impact industry’s ability to supply fresh poultry meat to meet the growing consumer demand across retail and food service. This will also have a knock-on impact on British food security and lead to dilution of standards due to cheaper imports – all of which is unacceptable.

Limiting journey time of broilers to slaughter to a max 4 hours (including loading and unloading) will result in a 50% reduction in the total number of broiler journeys in the UK, which will have a catastrophic impact on UK food security as well as the local economy (as farms will have to be taken out of the supply base). Also, limiting the transport of day-old chicks to 21 hours would prevent over 70% of UK breeding stock exports and force primary breeding companies to move their breeding programmes to other countries.

Prohibiting both short and long poultry journeys when the external temperature is outside the range of 5-25 degrees Celsius would result in the cancellation of most journeys in January and February as well as a significant percentage of journeys in November, December, March, and April. Implementing this requirement would mean a complete change to the poultry transport fleet resulting in an additional cost of £55 million without any evidence-based guarantee of better welfare for the birds.

Preventing the passage of day-old chicks on ferries at the last minute where wind speed is more than 23mph would increase the likelihood of destruction of valuable day olds.