Guidance

Animal welfare

Advice and guidance on protecting animal welfare on farms, in transport, at markets and at slaughter.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

This guide provides advice on the legislation and codes of practice designed to protect animal welfare on farms, in transport, at markets and at slaughter.

On-farm animal welfare

Specific guides on animal welfare issues are available for the following:

  • Poultry farming: welfare regulations
  • Laying hens: welfare regulations
  • Broiler chickens and breeder chickens: welfare regulations
  • Pig farming: welfare regulations
  • Sheep and goats: welfare regulations
  • Beef cattle and dairy cows: welfare regulations
  • Deer farming: health and welfare

See also:

Gamebirds

The code of practice for the welfare of gamebirds was approved by Parliament and came into force in January 2011. The code provides game farmers with information on how to meet the welfare needs of their animals, as required under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It can also be used in courts as evidence in cases brought before them relating to poor welfare of gamebirds.

Fish

In addition to the general requirements of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 we are working towards further improvements in fish welfare by other means.

The Council of Europe’s Standing Committee on the welfare of animals kept for farming purposes adopted a recommendation on fish in December 2005. Defra’s research and development programme includes projects on certain aspects of fish welfare. We will use the findings to support our objective to ensure high standards of fish welfare.

Ducks and geese

The welfare of ducks and geese is protected by the general requirements of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007. There is also a Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Ducks, which continues to apply under the new Animal Welfare Act.

Rabbits

The welfare of rabbits is protected by the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007. Schedule 9 of these regulations contains specific conditions that apply to the keeping of rabbits. There is also a Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Rabbits, which continues to apply under the new Animal Welfare Act.

As there is no longer an industry body for commercial rabbit keepers, we would welcome commercial farmers contacting us via: animal.welfare@defra.gov.uk to give their details for future consultation.

Turkeys

The welfare of turkeys are protected by the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007. There is also a Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Turkeys which continues to apply under the new Animal Welfare Act.

Ratites (emu, ostrich, rhea)

The farming of emu, ostrich and rhea (ratites) caters for a niche market in the UK. The welfare of ratites are protected by the general requirements in the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007. There are also Council of Europe recommendations on the welfare of farmed ratites which offer guidance on the standards that should apply.

The existing Codes of Recommendations for the welfare of livestock continue to apply, however, with the introduction of the Act and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007, the references to the legislation throughout the code are now out of date. Whilst the vast majority of the 2000 regulations are replicated by the 2007 regulations, you should check the legislation as it currently stands.

Legislation

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 (the 2006 Act) is the principal law relating to animal welfare.

Owners and keepers have a duty of care to their animals and must make sure they meet their needs:

  • for a suitable environment and place to live
  • for a suitable diet
  • to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (if applicable)
  • to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease

Anyone who does not provide for an animal’s welfare needs may:

  • be banned from owning animals
  • face an unlimited fine
  • be sent to prison for up to 6 months

The 2006 Act also sets out offences relating to cruelty and animal fighting. The maximum sentence for these offences is 5 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Animal cruelty includes:

  • causing unnecessary suffering to an animal
  • mutilation
  • docking the tail of a dog except where permitted
  • poisoning an animal

The 2006 Act applies to all vertebrate animals.

The welfare of farmed animals is additionally protected by The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 (as amended), which are made under the Animal Welfare Act.

The welfare of all farmed animals is protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any animal. The Act also contains a duty of care to animals - anyone responsible for an animal must take reasonable steps to make sure the animal’s welfare needs are met.

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 set minimum standards for all farm animals. These regulations replaced the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2000 on 1 October 2007. The new regulations are made under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and are very similar to the previous regulations.

The Welfare of Animals at Markets Order 1990 (WAMO) contains rules covering the treatment of animals in markets to ensure they are not caused injury or unnecessary suffering. They also set out detailed arrangements in respect of penning, food and water and the care of young animals. Responsibility for enforcing WAMO rests with local councils.

The welfare of farmed animals is additionally protected by the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 as amended (S.I. 2007 No.2078), which are made under the Animal Welfare Act.

These regulations continue to implement EU directives on the welfare of calves, pigs, laying hens, conventionally reared meat chickens and a general welfare framework directive, which sets down minimum standards for the protection of all farmed livestock.

The regulations cover all farmed animals. Schedule 1 (which does not apply to fish, reptiles or amphibians) contains specific requirements such as inspections, record keeping, freedom of movement, buildings and equipment and the feeding and watering of animals. Some species, however, are subject to additional provisions, which are set out in Schedules 2-9.

Guidance has been prepared to accompany the regulations and includes information on the application of the legislation to common land. Interim guidance whilst the relevant code of recommendations is under review, is available on the rules on conventionally reared meat chicken.

Similar legislation exists in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (NI). For further information on animal welfare legislation in these areas please contact the Defra helpline and ask for the On-farm Animal Welfare Team on 03459 33 55 77.

European legislation

EU minimum welfare standards are already in place for farmed animals, laying hens, calves and pigs.

The Treaty of Amsterdam in June 1997 contains a legally binding protocol recognising that animals are sentient beings and requires full regard to be paid to their welfare when policies relating to agriculture, transport, research and the internal market are formulated or implemented.

European conventions on animal welfare

The Council of Europe (CoE) has 5 conventions covering animal welfare including one on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes.

The underlying principle of the convention, and its recommendations on the welfare of individual species of livestock, is to set out the conditions necessary to avoid any unnecessary suffering or injury and to take account of physiological and behavioural needs. Current Council of Europe recommendations are listed below.

Animal welfare during transport

The welfare of animals during transport is protected by retained EU legislation.

You must transport animals in a way that is not likely to cause injury or undue suffering to them.

When you transport animals you must:

  • plan the journey properly and keep it as short as possible
  • check the animals during the journey to make sure you meet their needs for water, feed and rest
  • make sure the animals are fit to travel
  • design, construct and maintain the vehicle and loading and unloading facilities to avoid injury and suffering
  • make sure anyone handling the animals are trained or competent in the task and do not use violence or any methods likely to cause unnecessary fear, injury or suffering
  • give the animals sufficient floor space and height

Legislation on the protection of animals during transport applies to the transport of live vertebrate animals in connection with an economic activity (a business or trade). This includes:

  • livestock and equine hauliers
  • farmers
  • commercial pet breeders
  • pet couriers

The requirements apply to those working at:

  • markets
  • assembly centres
  • slaughterhouses

The requirements do not apply to the transport of animals where this is not in connection with economy activity. For example, journeys which are:

  • not in the course of business or trade
  • not for hire or reward

Enforcement

Welfare during transport is enforced by local councils. Trading standards officials carry out welfare checks on animals and means of transport. They will take appropriate enforcement action up to and including prosecution.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) carries out enforcement checks at markets, ports, roadside and at supervised loadings of export consignments. They enforce compliance with journey times through checks of journey documentation.

If you are concerned about the treatment of an animal during transport contact the local council (normally the trading standards department) or APHA.

Animals transported by air

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) sets out the requirements for transporting animals by air. Information on air transport and container requirements can be found on the IATA website on live animal regulations.

Transporting animals in Great Britain

When you transport animals commercially by air, sea, rail or road in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) you must have a GB or NI issued transporter authorisation.

For transport by road you also need:

Transporter authorisations

You must have a transporter authorisation if you transport animals as part of an economic activity (a business or trade), for a distance over 65km.

You will need a:

  • type 1 transporter authorisation for journeys over 65km and up to 8 hours
  • type 2 transporter authorisation for journeys over 8 hours

Get a transporter authorisation

You need to contact APHA’s Welfare in Transport team for a transporter authorisation application pack. This will include the forms you need to submit, and guidance on what to include in your application.

In your application you will need to declare any:

  • Home Office simple cautions or convictions under legislation on the protection of animals
  • current court orders restricting ownership, keeping or being in control of animals

This declaration includes you and anyone transporting animals under the authority of your Authorisation. Anyone who has been convicted or given a Home Office simple caution under such legislation, in the 3 years before their application, will normally be refused an authorisation.

Renew your transporter authorisation

Transporter authorisations are valid for up to 5 years.

You should renew your transporter authorisation before it expires. Contact APHA’s Welfare in Transport team for renewal forms.

If you have a type 2 authorisation, your renewal application will need to include:

Vehicle inspection and approval scheme

Road vehicles and containers used to transport animals on journeys over 8 hours, must be inspected and approved by a certifying body.

Certificates of vehicle approval are valid for up to 5 years.

Contact a certifying body to find out how to get a vehicle or container inspected and for information on the approval process.

Logistics UK

Hermes House
St John's Road
Tunbridge Wells
Kent
TN4 9UZ

Telephone: +44 (0)3717 112 222
Email: customerservices@logistics.org.uk

NSF Certification UK Ltd

Hanborough Business Park
Long Hanborough
Oxford
OX29 8SG

Telephone: +44 (0)1993 885 610
Email: certificationuk@nsf.org

Satellite navigation systems

Vehicles making journeys over 8 hours transporting cattle, sheep, pigs, goats or unregistered domestic equidae need to be equipped with a satellite navigation (tracking) system. There is an exception to this rule for journeys of up to 12 hours within GB.

Read the guidance note on satellite tracking systems for information on the basic functionality of systems. Designated vehicle approval certifying bodies can advise on how to get suitable equipment.

Complete training

Drivers and attendants of vertebrate animals must complete training for:

  • fitness for travel
  • the means of transport
  • use of its facilities
  • loading, unloading and handling
  • watering and feeding intervals, journey times and rest periods
  • space allowances
  • documentation

Market and assembly centre staff handling animals must complete training for:

  • fitness
  • handling
  • separation

Training can include:

  • on-the-job instruction combined with practical experience
  • formal training, such as college courses leading to standards equivalent to qualifications accredited into the national qualifications framework

Certificates of competence

You must have your competence independently assessed if you transport animals by road, on journeys over 65km, in connection with an economic activity. This only applies to domestic species of cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, domestic equidae and poultry.

The assessment may be a:

  • theory test - for journeys over 65km and up to 8 hours
  • practical assessment of competence including animal handling, and if required, driving skills - for journeys over 8 hours

If assessed as competent, you will receive a certificate of competence. Your certificate will be specific to:

  • your role of either transporter or attendant
  • the length of journeys you take
  • the species you transport

Certificates of competence are valid for life.

The following independent bodies carry out assessments for competence and award competence certificates:

NPCT, Part of City & Guilds Group

Building 500
Abbey Park
Stareton
Warwickshire
CV8 2LY

Telephone: 024 7685 7300
Fax: 024 7669 6128
Email: information@cityandguilds.com
Website: www.nptc.org.uk

Lantra Awards

Lantra House
Stoneleigh Park
Warwickshire
CV8 2LG

Telephone: 02476 696 996
Fax: 02476 411 655
Email: awards@lantra-awards.co.uk
Website: www.lantra.co.uk

City & Guilds and Lantra Awards are designated to assess for competence and award competence certificates to transport: cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, equines and poultry (including game birds).

1st4Sport

Coachwise Ltd
Chelsea Close
Off Amberley Road
Armley
Leeds
LS12 4HP

Telephone: 01132 907 610
Email: enquiries@1st4sportqualifications.com

1st4Sport is designated to assess for competence and award competence certificates to transport equines only.

Irish certificates of competence

Under the common travel area, Irish and British citizens can move freely and reside in either jurisdiction and enjoy associated rights and entitlements.

Defra will recognise training carried out in Ireland for the purpose of granting driver and attendant certificates of competence.

If you have an Irish certificate of competence, you can apply to APHA by completing an application form. You’ll need to provide a copy of your training and assessment, and your valid certificate of competence.

If you have a GB certificate of competence and want to apply to the RoI, contact the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

Journey logs

If you export cattle, sheep, pigs, goats or unregistered horses you must have both:

  • a UK issued journey log - issued by either DAERA or APHA
  • an EU issued journey log

The GB issued journey log must be approved by the APHA Centre for International Trade - Carlisle.

You can get the EU journey log from the competent authority of the first point of entry into the EU. If you depart from NI, you must get the UK journey log from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

Animal transport certificates

For all other journeys where a journey log is not required, you need an animal transport certificate. This includes for journeys of any distance or duration, and for all species of animals.

An animal transport certificate records:

  • origin and ownership of animals
  • place of departure and destination
  • date and time of departure
  • expected duration of journey

Contact APHA’s Welfare in Transport team for an animal transport certificate template.

Contingency plans

If you have a type 2 transporter authorisation, you must have contingency plans to deal with emergencies that can arise during a journey. For example, animals falling ill or getting injured, unforeseen delays, breakdowns or accidents.

You need to submit a contingency plan with your type 2 transporter authorisation application. APHA will provide a template as part of your application pack.

You must document your contingency plans and make them available to the competent authority on request.

Journey organisers need to submit a contingency plan with each new application for a journey log. APHA will give you a form to complete along with your journey log application.

In the case of multiple pick-ups and drop-offs you only need one contingency plan to cover the whole journey. In instances where loads are split, for example at a control post before onward travel to the destination on separate vehicles, only one contingency plan is required but separate instructions may be needed following the consignment being split.

For further guidance on contingency plans contact APHA’s Welfare in Transport team.

Transporting animals into the EU

UK issued transporter authorisations, certificates of competence and certificates of vehicle approval are not valid for use in the EU.

To transport live animals into the EU, UK transporters must apply to an EU member state for a transporter authorisation.

You will need to be represented in the relevant member state. The term representation is not defined in the legislation. You should:

  • contact the relevant competent authority for the member state you wish to apply to
  • seek independent legal advice, specific to your business
  • discuss directly with your relevant trade organisation

You can only hold an authorisation in one member state.

When you apply for an EU issued transporter authorisation you need to submit any required certificate of vehicle approval and certificate of competence. All certificates need to be issued by an EU member state. GB issued certificates are not valid.

You can get contact details for member states to which you wish to apply via the relevant Border Control Posts (BCP).

Live animals may be required to enter the EU via an approved BCP. Find a list of approved BCP.

Further information

Published 9 April 2013
Last updated 29 June 2021 + show all updates
  1. The legislation section has been updated to reflect the changes in maximum sentencing.

  2. Added that certificates and journey logs need to be GB or NI issued for transport in GB. Updated 'Vehicle inspection scheme and approval' section and Logistics UK contact details.

  3. Updated telephone number for Logistics UK. Updated section on Irish certificates of competence to confirm Defra recognises training carried out in Ireland when granting certificates of competence.

  4. We updated the transporting animals in Great Britain section to clarify that transporter authorisations issued in Northern Ireland are valid for transport within GB.

  5. Updated the guidance for animal welfare during transport. To transport live animals into the EU, UK transporters must apply to an EU member state for a transporter authorisation.

  6. WIT 21 – Guidance notes on the application forms - Welsh version updated

  7. WIT21 - Guidance notes on the application forms updated

  8. WIT21 guidance updated

  9. WIT6 – ATC template updated

  10. Factual errors fixed

  11. Added a link to slaughter detailed guide.

  12. First published.