The British Poultry Council (BPC) has warned Defra’s proposals to limit livestock transit times are based on outdated research and will ‘cripple’ the poultry meat supply chain.
In its response to the Government’s consultation on the subject, the BPC said cutting the journey time of broilers to slaughter to a maximum of four hours would result in a 50 per cent reduction in the total number of broiler journeys in the UK.
The group claimed this would have a ‘catastrophic impact’ on food security, as well as the local economy, as farms would have to be taken out of the supply base.
The submission also said prohibiting journeys when the external temperature is outside the range of 5-25 deg c would result in the cancellation of most journeys in January and February, as well as a significant percentage in November, December, March and April, and suggested changing the poultry transport fleet to meet these requirements would cost £55m.
BPC chief executive Richard Griffiths said: “Bird welfare in the UK is world-class, science-based and continually improving.
“Health and wellbeing 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 the latest research would be both premature and potentially damaging to the strides made in bird welfare during transport over the last 25 years.”
Last month, Defra Secretary George Eustice told the online NFU conference that the Government’s proposals on journey times and ventilation were targeted directly at the poultry sector, in particular laying hens.
“There were some quite worrying signs and statistics that you were getting high mortality at arrival at the abattoir and I do not think any of us can feel comfortable about that,” he said.