Live animal transport

In 2022, over 1,500,000,000 ovines, bovines, poultry and pigs were transported alive across the European Union and to non-European countries. Journeys can last several days or even weeks, exposing animals to exhaustion, dehydration, injury, disease, and even death.

Live animal transport investigations frequently expose serious breaches of the Council Regulation 1/2005 (Transport Regulation). From the transport of vulnerable animals to the overcrowding of transport vessels, what these investigations have captured over the years has proven time and time again that the Transport Regulation not only needs to be updated, but that it needs to be enforced much more rigorously in order to ensure high standards of animal welfare in the sector.

Official audits echo this need. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, DG SANTE audited 11 Member States, as well as Turkey, on their live animal transport trade. They discovered breaches in the majority of them, including the transportation of ‘unweaned’ animals (e.g. very young animals) and the undertaking of journeys in extreme temperatures.

Further, journeys in the live animal transport sector can last for a very long time - sometimes weeks - having a severe impact on animal welfare. Facing prolonged physical and mental stress, animals on these journeys are more likely to become injured or sick, which can contribute to the spread of diseases including zoonoses.

Another pressing issue in the industry is what happens to animals once they are exported to countries outside of the EU, where they can no longer benefit from the legal protections offered within its borders. As a result, they are often exposed to awful experiences and handling on arrival at their destination. That is, if they are permitted onto land at all. Recent cases including the 2024 incident of bulls stuck at the Moroccan border show contingency plans for problems regularly do not exist regarding transport outside of the EU, leading to unimaginable suffering for the animals involved. 

In 2023, the EU made a promise to revise the Transport Regulation with animal welfare in mind. For this update to be effective, it must include species- and category-specific provisions that consider the comfort and needs of all transported animals. Exports to third countries must also be banned, as it is incredibly difficult to control what happens to animals once they leave the EU.

sheep loading

In 2022 the EU exported


ovines, pigs and bovines for breeding, fattening and slaughter to non-EU countries.

In 2022, EU Member States traded


farm birds, including chickens, hens, and ducks.

In 2019, the EU exported


tonnes of fish, with the majority destined for other Member States.


It is clear that live animal transport is a leading concern in the field of animal welfare for EU citizens.

In October 2023, the European Commission published a new special Eurobarometer exploring current public opinion about animal welfare. A large majority of respondents (83%) think that the travel time for the transport of live animals within or from the EU (for ‘commercial purposes’) should be limited. 

Public opinion on the issue of live animal transport was also demonstrated by the success of Eurogroup for Animals’ StopTheTrucks campaign in 2016-2017, which exceeded its target of one million signatures.


To protect animal welfare during transport, the EU set a series of requirements in the Transport Regulation which entered into force in January 2007. It applies to all live animal transport for economic purposes across and from the EU. 

As confirmed by the EU Parliament’s Implementation Report on this matter, the Transport Regulation is outdated and very unevenly implemented. To address the problems in the sector, in 2020, the EU Commission announced it would revise the Transport Regulation within its Farm to Fork Strategy. 

Following this announcement, a lot of official bodies provided recommendations for the updated regulation, including the ANIT committee, which produced a report on the risks of live animal transport in 2021, and the European Food Safety Authority, which published five new and updated species-specific recommendations on how to improve the welfare of farm animals during transport in 2022. 

In December 2023, the EU Commission published its transport proposal, but regrettably, it failed to make significant improvements to animal welfare. 

To ensure the revised text will enhance animal welfare and support building a sustainable food chain, Eurogroup for Animals published an update to its white paper:  ‘Live animal transport: time to change the rules’. The paper provides policymakers with species- and category-specific provisions to ensure better welfare for all animals transported alive.