Advice of BuRO on the transport of finisher pigs and broilers during (extremely) high temperatures

Continue the development of the National Plan for livestock transport. Among other things, make the protective measures in this plan more explicit to prevent heat stress and death among finishing pigs and broilers during transport at high ambient temperatures. This is BuRO’s advice to the NVWA.

National Livestock Transport Plan

The sector, working alongside the NVWA, has drawn up the National Plan on the transport of livestock during extreme heat and cold in order to give more substance to the legal requirements. This plan has no legal basis. Therefore the NVWA cannot enforce it. The poultry sector is not yet committed.

Use of (animal) indicators

BuRO concludes that no robust indicators of heat stress can be found in literature, except for the dead-on-arrival percentage (DOA%). In addition to further developing the National Plan for livestock transport, BuRO therefore recommends a more complete and more integrated use of (animal) indicators to record the welfare of animals for a better insight and benchmarking of transporters and slaughterhouses. Examples of (animal) indicators are panting or the loading density of the vehicles.

Risks of transport during heat

This advice is limited to determining the impact of (extremely) high temperatures on the animal welfare of finishing pigs and broilers. These animals are more sensitive to high temperatures than some other production animals, due to their species-specific physiology i.e. their inability to perspire. The effects of cold are not part of this advice. This advice principally focusses on conditions in the truck or trailer and the loading process. The conditions at the slaughterhouse (stationary period, lairage) are taken into account to a limited extent.

Advice of BuRO to the Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality:

  • Mandatory mechanical ventilation for all transports of pigs and broilers over 27 ºC.
  • Take the initiative, preferably at a European level, to establish mandatory rules on (long) journeys to ensure that stakeholders in the finishing pig and broiler sectors and in the transport sector for live animals take adequate risk mitigation measures against heat stress at temperatures ≥30ºC.

Advice of BuRO to the Inspector-General of the NVWA:

  • Make the risk-reducing measures in the National Plan more explicit in order to better safeguard the welfare of animals (specifically of finishing pigs and broilers) during transport to slaughter during periods with high ambient temperatures. The development of the National Plan should therefore be continued, with the number of participants increased, particularly with parties from the poultry sector. In addition, there should be ongoing commitment to involving all relevant parties in the live animal transport sector.
  • Limit physical inspection during hot days when the National Plan is in progress to prevent halting of transport and thus increased heat stress, and consider which other monitoring method is more appropriate without increasing animal welfare risks.
  • Pursue a more comprehensive and more integrated use of (animal) indicators to determine the welfare of animals (especially pigs and broilers) during transport, with any observed data being recorded from temperatures above 25ºC.
  • Intensify the recording and accessibility of data regarding animal welfare, such as that of the DOA % (dead-on-arrival) and any observed abnormalities at the slaughterhouse, loading density, temperature logs and details of transporter and slaughterhouse, to enable better insight into and benchmarking of transporters and slaughterhouses.

Reason for risk assessment

The summers of 2018 and 2019 both experienced heat waves confirmed by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) (minimum of 5 days ≥ 25ºC and a minimum of 3 days ≥ 30ºC). Under these types of weather conditions, animal transport takes place with a potential risk to animal welfare.

The Enforcement directorate of the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) has asked the office for Risk Assessment & Research (BuRO) to assess the risks to animal welfare of finishing pigs and broilers during transport at (extremely) high temperatures, taking into account animal indicators to monitor animal welfare.