Animal Welfare: Live Exports

It is recognised that animal welfare generally, and especially the live export of animals is a very emotive issue.

Live export of animals for breeding, further rearing or slaughter has taken place from (and to) the Isle of Man for many, many years. All recent activity is shown on the DEFA website.

Export market opportunity is a fundamental element for the continued viability of many Manx livestock and animal product producers. Destinations include Meat processors (direct consignment) Marts (slaughter and further rearing) and private purchasers (further rearing, production or breeding). Large UK marts enable competitive price realisation and essential trade routes. Further, income generated within wide export markets provides incoming revenue to the Island economy. The achieved health status of the Manx National Herd is an important positive factor considered by GB purchasers.              

Consumer Driven Markets

Whilst it would be desirable for all animals to be killed as close to the point of production as possible, there are many reasons why trade has developed over longer distances:

  • Consolidation of the meat industry has resulted in considerably fewer abattoirs, which consequently need to serve wider catchment areas for consigned livestock
  • Small abattoirs are now very low in number; having been out-competed by larger establishments through economies of scale
  • Individual abattoirs specialise in particular categories and species of livestock in order to fulfil contracts in the most cost effective manner (e.g. for supermarkets or export trade)
  • Competition by abattoirs for livestock intake, is a significant factor within the industry with selective purchase of livestock allied to the market requirements of the finished product.

All of the above are the result of consumer led economic drivers that promote lower costs of production in order to provide lower cost and specific market products. This has been the overriding message from consumers in the last thirty years and is likely to become even more pronounced in the current world financial situation. It is a sobering fact that, while the majority of individuals would vote for improved animal welfare in a survey, the truth of the matter is that price is generally king on the supermarket shelf: there is no point in farmers producing all local stock to an extremely high welfare standard if the population are not prepared to pay the associated price premium.

Export of Specific Classes of Stock

Previous work on the Island has also shown that there are particular groups of livestock that cannot be processed and sold profitably here, but can achieve good prices if transported to the UK. Carcasses of lambs that graze the uplands, without which we would not enjoy the landscape we value so highly, are prized in southern European countries; the contracts for such supply are held by particular abattoirs in the UK. The Island simply does not produce enough animals in this category to service such European contracts. Hence, moving them to markets and large abattoirs in the UK secures a better return for the farmer. For the Island meat plant to produce and export relatively small numbers of such carcasses to European destinations is economically unrealistic.

Lack of Sufficient Price Premium

It is understood that some consumers would pay for higher welfare standard products, but not in sufficient volumes to support major agricultural industry change. Differing Welfare standards perceived throughout Europe, and further afield, are reflected within the subsequent pricing structure.

An historic example of such difficulties was the decision by the UK (and IOM) to prohibit the keeping of sows (mature female pigs) in stalls (metal cages that prevented them from turning round). While a laudable decision, and unquestionably the “right thing to do” from a welfare perspective, critically the competitor nations in the EU did not follow suit - they delayed the implementation for years. Hence the UK pig industry suffered from a competitive disadvantage for a prolonged period, unable to compete with producers that still used stalls (economically more efficient) and further, through EU free trade unable to prevent imports of such meat into the UK market.

Critical Points

All the above contains many lessons for the Island:

1) Market economics drive the decision as to where animals are slaughtered

2) Consumers are currently not prepared to pay sufficient premium to restructure the UK meat industry back into local, high cost, but low journey time, meat plants

3) There is no legal justification for preventing transport of animals out of the Island depending on their ultimate destination (slaughter or rearing)

4) Animals are transported much longer distances than Douglas to Heysham, for example from the North of Scotland to Cornwall or trans-European consignments.

5) Supporting the local Plant through the purchasing of Manx meat is critical for the survival of local meat production

Controls on Livestock Trade

The Department as the competent authority, maintains official controls regarding the trade in livestock, both within and consigned from, the Island: ensuring it is carried out to the correct legal and professional standards. Compliance with Welfare Regulations, and the compulsory pre export Veterinary inspection and certification of livestock, ensures standards are maintained.

All export (and import) movements of livestock (cattle, sheep and very rarely, pigs) are preceded by an official veterinary inspection and certification process that ensures animals are free of clinical signs of disease, meet additional health conditions, and are in a fit condition to undertake the proposed journey. Animal destination is specifically stated within the official certification and stock must be consigned directly to that specific destination.

Animals consigned for direct slaughter in the UK, go to fully approved and licensed EU plants where compliance with welfare and hygiene regulations is carefully monitored. A duly qualified full time Official Veterinarian is in attendance; therefore, animals arriving from the Island are further subject to additional Veterinary inspection at that plant before slaughter.

Livestock transporters are also subject to strict, uniform Island, UK, and EU Regulation, which protects the welfare of livestock carried on such journeys. Animals consigned to Auction Marts are subject to welfare and identification checks at arrival and throughout the mart by official, mart and Animal Welfare organisation staff.

Failures in transport or welfare would be subject to investigation by the relevant authority.

Animal Transport Controls

Transportation of all animals is governed by implementation of EU Welfare in Transport Regulation (EC) No 1/2005 through The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (Isle of Man) Order 2007. Similar Legislation is in place throughout the British Isles. The regulations include the consignment and transport of live animals throughout the European Union, on-Island and to the British Isles. This legislation is applicable to journeys over 65km in length and of a commercial nature.

Transporters based and established in the Isle of Man must hold specific Authorisation issued by the Department. Transporters based the in the UK including Northern Ireland must hold Authorisations issued in that jurisdiction. Transporters based in other EU Member States are expected to be authorised in their respective Member State. Transporters may hold only one Authorisation as an Authorisation is valid throughout the European Union.

There are two types of Authorisation:

  • Short journey Authorisation (type 1) for journeys over 65km (40 miles) and up to and including 8 hours duration and;
  • Long journey Authorisation (type 2) for journeys over 65km and over 8 hours duration. Additional conditions will need to be met for long journey Authorisation.

As of the current time (February 2017) no Type 2 Authorisations have been issued to Isle of Man road transporters. In the rare case of Long journeys (see above) GB, EIRE or EU Type 2 Authorised transporters are used to complete the transport. Livestock would require recorded journey stops for feed and rest after 15 hours of continuous transport.

As with all legislation some details in the interpretation of specific points can only be decided by the courts and legal system. Incidents will occur where specific situations can cause delay to a correctly planned route and times of travel. Instances where such occurrence is unforeseen and outwith the transporter’s control may be considered as “force majeure” circumstance. In such cases the subsequent actions should be considered, proportionate and designed to ensure continued animal welfare to the best of the transporter’s ability. Accepted interpretation allows for an extension up to 12 hours in such circumstances.

Vehicle Approval

• To transport farm livestock by road on journeys over 8 hours must have a Type 2 Authorisation together with a valid vehicle approval certificate.

Vehicles and trailers for use on long journeys require prior inspection and approval (valid for up to 5 years) by the Competent Authority. Such approval inspections are carried out within the issuing jurisdiction. Vehicles and trailers for use on long journeys must also comply with the additional provisions, relating to: roof, partitions, ventilation & fans, temperature monitor sensors, temperature data recorder, navigation system, water and water system, feed, feeding equipment and bedding.

As no Road Transporters based in the Isle of Man are Type 2 Authorised there is no requirement for inspection and certification of transport vehicles. However, many private transporters have vehicles compliant with the relevant Farm Assurance Scheme and commercial Isle of Man hauliers are members of voluntary trade organisations with vehicle standards central to membership.

Ferry Transport

Roll-on Roll-off vessels do not need to be approved and certified. The operator must hold a Type 2 Authorisation. IOMSPCo hold a current Type 2 Authorisation. The vessel Master has full responsibility and control over the transit of vehicles and cargoes including animals. As such, historically a good line of communication has been established between the IOMSPCo and transporters, in that consignors on island generally have adequate notice of livestock cancellation before animals are loaded at the consignor premises. Transport in heavy seas, high winds (Force 5 +) or inclement wind direction is generally not permitted. The IOMSPCo also has policy on double and single decked vehicles. The welfare and safety of livestock in transit is very important to the ferry operator.

The Science of Animal Transport

Much scientific research into livestock transport has been done. Interestingly it has been shown that amongst the most stressful elements of transport are the loading and unloading. The actual journey time is of relatively little significance except in pro-longed transport or extreme conditions. The journey time is controlled under The Welfare of Animals (Transport) (Isle of Man) Order 2007 and similar legislation in the UK and EU. Transportation of livestock within the Island requires both loading and unloading as is the case for exported livestock.