Globally, over 60 billion animals are transported annually and the welfare of these animals is an issue of major public and political concern worldwide. Animal welfare in transit is the subject of constantly developing legislation, which must be based on sound scientific evidence that prioritises animal welfare. The research by SRUC – Scotland’s Rural College, which has been continuously supported by Defra and industrial partners used physiological and behavioural modelling to provide quantitative indices of the stress felt by livestock in transit.
The severity of the stress and the nature of the responses have been used to define the ideal transport conditions and practices and to identify acceptable ranges and limits for imposed stressors. This involved the development indices of thermal loads including the development and application of the concept of Apparent Equivalent Temperature, which allows quantification and modelling of the physiological effects of temperature and absolute humidity for poultry in transit.
The model has been evaluated and validated under commercial transportation conditions and this was central to the success of the project. A key part of the research has been developing new techniques to measure the stress experienced by animals in transit such as radio-telemetry which was used to record the physiological response of animals to a range of transportation conditions and stressors including temperature.
Numerous other markers of physiological stress have been identified and applied which allow for continuous assessment and point sampling to determine the degree of stress imposed in transit and the effects upon animal welfare.