Comment: Defra’s livestock transport proposals are not based on science or evidence

By Aimee Mahony, NFU chief poultry advisor

We all face challenges throughout our lifetime, some more turbulent than others but one thing I personally try and focus on is turning these challenges into opportunities. It may be something big or even something that seems quite small but by using these situations to your advantage and influencing the end result, it can help turn the negatives into something more positive.

I believe the poultry sector offers a flexible and accommodating approach in dealing with the obstacles the industry has to face and it seems that we’ve faced our fair share in recent times with issues caused by EU exit, avian influenza and COVID-19 to name but three. From farm to fork, our sector is market-driven and we must adapt our way of working to meet these evolving market requirements.

Part of this is our ability to turn adversity into opportunity and move forward. Whether that is in relation to animal welfare, antibiotics, or avian influenza, the poultry supply chain has a tendency to be forward thinking and we are collectively stronger for it.

One good example of this is Defra’s ongoing consultation looking at the improvements to animal welfare during transport. The government’s proposals have caused great concern for the industry with an approach focussed on journey length rather than quality, along with other proposals which are sadly not based on science or evidence.

We have now held numerous meetings with Defra officials, with members in attendance pushing back on the proposals but also taking the time to explain important elements of poultry transport that already exist. We’ve also highlighted the opportunity to place more focus on training and sector-specific guidance to drive improvements in animal welfare during transport. Hopefully we’ll see some of these points reflected in Defra’s response to the consultation once it closes on the 25 February.

I’d like to end this month’s column on a more positive note regarding COVID-19 testing for workers in the food sector. Numerous instances of positive COVID-19 outbreaks in the wider food supply chain accelerated the NFU’s calls for mass testing to be available for farmers and workers in agriculture.

I’m pleased to say that Defra recently confirmed that for businesses with over 50 employees, registration for government-funded lateral flow tests is now available, allowing asymptomatic testing centres to be established for workers.


This ability to receive rapid test results is so important and I would encourage every eligible business to register. If you have fewer than 50 employees, you can also register your interest if you feel a similar arrangement would benefit workers within your business.



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