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Biological safety and use of animals
Laboratory animals





(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 21 February 1990
at the 434th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)

Table of Contents


General statement
I. Pre-transport
II. Loading
III. Transport
IV. Post-transport

Annex: Transportation by air
I. Pre-transport
II. Loading
III. Transport





The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

Aware that man has a moral obligation to respect all animals and to have due consideration for their capacity for suffering ;

Convinced that the requirements for the transport of poultry are not incompatible with their welfare;

Recalling the adoption of common provisions, laid down in the European Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport, concluded in 1968;

Recalling also the additional protocol to this convention, concluded in 1979, to enable the European Economic Community to become a Party to this instrument;

Motivated by the desire to safeguard, as far as possible, poultry in transport from suffering;

Anxious to encourage full respect of the provisions of the convention by all people directly involved in the transport of poultry in the member states;

Considering that the Code of Conduct for the International Transport of Poultry, as reproduced in the appendix to this recommendation, constitutes a series of guidelines which together can ensure the protection of the welfare of poultry during such transport;

Believing that it may be appropriate, under certain circumstances, to apply relevant sections of this code of conduct to poultry being transported within national boundaries,

Recommends the governments of member states:

i. if they have not already done so, to sign and/or ratify at their earliest convenience the European Convention for the Protection of Animals during International Transport, as amended by the additional protocol to this instrument;

ii. to ensure that adequate publicity is given to the Code of Conduct for the Transport of Poultry, in particular amongst the persons concerned with such transport;

iii. to encourage these persons to take account of the guidelines set out in the code of conduct when they prepare or carry out such transport;

iv. to ensure that each international consignment of poultry is accompanied by an appropriate certificate, which should follow the standard international transport certificate elaborated within the European Community for the transport of animals;

v. to encourage their nationals to ensure, when concluding contracts which result in a transport of poultry from non-member states, that before the departure of such transport the conditions are respected throughout the journey, in line with the principles set out in the European convention and with the guidelines listed in the Code of Conduct for the International Transport of Poultry.


General statement

In the best welfare interests of the birds, long-distance transport of poultry for slaughter should be avoided whenever possible by having them slaughtered in the nearest slaughterhouse and transporting carcase meat.

It is also considered preferable on welfare grounds to transport hatching eggs instead of day-old chicks.

Every effort should be made to avoid any unnecessary delay in the transport of poultry and a consignment should be detained only when it is strictly necessary for the welfare of the birds.


This code of conduct applies to the transport of all poultry reared for their meat, eggs or feathers and in particular to the transport of end-of-lay hens, broilers and day-old chicks.

I. Pre-transport

I.1. Preliminaries

I.1.1. Enquiries. The first step for any person intending to undertake the international transport of animals shall be to find out from the appropriate competent authorities what conditions are in force for transit through or importation into the country or countries concerned (for example, serological tests, vaccination, quarantine, customs procedures).

I.1.2. Planning of the journey. Careful planning of any journey is essential: the route, time, likely weather conditions, distances, stages and stopping places must be considered beforehand. If it is not possible or practicable to feed and water poultry during their transport, the total period of transport of poultry, taking into account the time necessary for loading and unloading, shall be related to the feeding and watering needs (see section III.1.7). Care must also be taken to ensure that all necessary health certificates have been obtained and that the route followed does not jeopardise the health certification in any way.

For day-old chicks good planning of hatching in relation to the time of departure is necessary.

I.1.3. Notification. Early notification of the expected time of arrival at control posts will help minimise delays. Every effort should be made to ensure that this is done either by the consignor, carrier or consignee.

I.2. Preparation of the animal

I.2.1. Disease. For poultry not intended to be slaughtered directly vaccination and/or medication should be considered well in advance of any export. If vaccinations are required, they should be administered in accordance with the national regulations in the country of destination and, where appropriate, the countries of origin and transit, taking into account the period which will elapse before the required immunity can develop.

I.2.2. Group size. The size of the groups within the containers or the boxes should be determined in relation to the dimensions of the containers/boxes, the means of transport used and the need to avoid such problems as overcrowding and heat stress.

I.2.3. Feeding and watering. Poultry other than day-old chicks should be offered water until loading commences, but food may be withdrawn shortly before loading.

A record of the feeding and watering times should accompany the animals throughout the journey.

I.3. Preparation of the transport unit

I.3.1. Cleanliness. It is important that all parts of containers in which poultry will be transported are thoroughly cleaned and, if necessary, disinfected.

Day-old chicks must be carried either in thoroughly cleaned or new containers.

I.4. Designation of the person in charge

I.4.1. Person in charge. The driver or any other person in charge should be responsible for assessing the conditions during transport and should take appropriate measures. He should be suitably trained in how to ensure the welfare of the poultry in his charge, and be conversant with administrative requirements and other formalities. The person in charge should obtain veterinary assistance when necessary.

I.5. Tasks of the official veterinarian before transport

I.5.1. Documents. Since incomplete documents can cause considerable delay, they must be completed legibly and with absolute accuracy. It is not acceptable to alter official documents but errors or proper erasures must be stamped and initialled by the signing official veterinarian. Documents shall be completed in a way which would make them understandable in the country of origin, the country of destination and in any country of transit.

I.5.2. Fitness to travel. Only birds which are fit for the intended journey shall be subjected to international transportation.

In the case of end-of-lay hens, particular account should be taken of the problems of bone fragility which can lead to fractures.

I.5.3. Stocking densities. Notwithstanding the recommended stocking densities, the official veterinarian should be prepared to give advice in this matter. He can require the off-loading of some birds if he considers that there is overcrowding, after taking into account the particular circumstances.

II. Loading

II.1. Handling

Loading and unloading are the activities during which injuries and stress are most likely to occur. Birds shall be loaded with care, to prevent injuries such as broken legs and wings, and to avoid excessive noise and harassment. Visibly unfit or injured birds must not be loaded and, where possible, collection and loading should be carried out in subdued lighting so as to calm the birds.

II.1.1. Catching and placing poultry in containers

a. End-of-lay hens (spent hens)

End-of-lay hens are susceptible to bone breakage, especially where they have to be removed from cages, handed on, carried to and placed in transport containers. For this reason, transport containers should be placed as close as possible to the cages. Where large numbers are to be loaded this should be carried out by experienced teams. The number in each team should be sufficient to prevent a prolonged loading period, which can have adverse effects on the loading staff and therefore on the hens.

Before collecting the hens, any hindrances from fixtures and fittings, especially sharp edges or protrusions, must be removed from the cages or transport containers.

There must be easy access to each cage for the catcher. Hens should be removed from the cage one at a time, and during removal the breast should be supported.

If hens are carried by hand hanging head downwards, they should be held by both legs and care must be taken if wings flap to avoid hitting solid objects. The number of hens carried will depend on the size of the hen and the ability of the catcher, but not more than three should be carried in one hand.

The same standards of care in handling should apply to hens housed in non-battery cage systems. Food troughs, drinkers and moveable perches should be removed from the catching area before catching starts. Where there is no suitable access to free-range units, alternative transport to the road vehicle must be provided, with adequate labour in order not to prolong loading time.

b. Broilers (slaughter chickens)

Manual handling of broilers should be subject to the same broad principles as for end-of-lay hens.

Several mechanised catching and loading systems have been developed. All have the common feature of reducing the human factor in collecting and loading and may therefore reduce stress and injury to the broilers. These methods are recommended only when it has been demonstrated that they do reduce stress and injury to the birds.

c. Day-old chicks

Day-old chicks should be loaded into new boxes of corrugated fibreboard, into rigid plastic boxes or boxes of other rigid material.

d. Other birds

In principle, birds shall not be lifted or carried by the head, neck, wing or tail, except adult geese which may be held and lifted by the base of both wings and ducks which can be lifted and carried for very short distances by the neck. Geese, ducks, turkeys and other large birds may be herded towards the loading area and even into the container or the vehicle.

II.2. Loading of the transport unit

II.2.1. Containers. Containers shall be lifted and placed in position, whether manually or mechanically, with the greatest care. They shall not be dropped or thrown, and shall always be kept in the correct upright position.

III. Transport

III.1. Conditions

III.1.1. Construction and design. The openings of containers must be sufficiently large and free of projections so as to reduce the risk of the birds being injured when they are placed inside. Receptacles, vehicles, fittings, etc. must he strong enough to contain the birds' weight and designed so as to prevent the birds escaping or falling out, and to avoid protrusion of heads, legs or wings. On the other hand, containers shall permit inspection of the birds and must allow adequate ventilation and air space for the birds inside.

Containers shall be marked with a statement or symbol indicating the presence of live birds and a sign indicating the correct upright position.

Containers must be maintained in a good state of repair at all times and any sharp edges or protrusions with which the birds may come into contact must be adequately padded or removed entirely.

The following indicative figures are considered to be satisfactory for the height inside the transport containers:



day-old chicks
poultry approx. 1 kg
poultry 1 kg to 4 kg
poultry more than 4 kg

20 to 23
24 to 33
34 and more

III.1.2. Securing. Containers and boxes must be so secured as to prevent their being displaced by the movement of the transport, and to allow free air circulation between the containers and boxes.

111.1.3. Lighting. There should be a means of lighting, fixed or portable, sufficient for general inspection of the birds when this is necessary during loading, carriage and unloading.

III.1.4. Stocking density. When calculating space requirements, the size and condition of the birds, the weather, the ventilation possibilities and the nature and length of the journey must be taken into account.

The following indicative figures are considered to be satisfactory for space requirements:



day-old chicks

21-25 cm2 per chick

poultry less than 1,6 kg
poultry 1,6 kg to 3,0 kg
poultry 3,0 kg to 5,0 kg
poultry more than 5,0 kg

180 - 200 cm2 per kg
160 cm2 per kg
115 cm2 per kg
105 cm2 per kg

These figures may vary depending not only on the weight and size of the birds, but also on their condition, the weather and the probable length of the journey.

III.I.5. Ventilation. The air circulation in transport units should be such as:
- to provide enough oxygen for the birds,
- to remove smell and gases, and
- to control temperature and humidity.

Adequate ventilation/fresh air supply shall be provided, considering the number and size of the birds being carried and the climatic conditions expected for the journey.

The supply of fresh air must be checked regularly and adjusted when necessary, but the birds shall not be placed in excessive draughts. It should be borne in mind that insufficient spacing can prevent the loss of heat produced by the birds and interfere with the circulation of air between containers and boxes. Stacking and placing of containers must be done in a way which guarantees a good ventilation of the whole load as well as of every individual container or box.

For day-old chicks this can be achieved by keeping a distance of at least 5 cm between the sides of the boxes and other boxes or one of the side walls of the vehicle. Between the box at the bottom of the stack and the loading floor a distance of at least 3 cm is advised. Between the top box and the roof of the vehicle a distance of at least 17 cm is advised. The side walls and the top of the boxes must contain ventilation holes of about 1 cm2. The boxes may be subdivided into compartments and should be so constructed that they can be stacked in a way that allows a good air exchange between the box and its surroundings.

III.1.6 Temperature. When poultry are to be transported in very hot or cold conditions, care should be taken to avoid exposing the birds to extreme temperatures; special consideration should be given to the construction of the transport unit, its mechanism for ventilation and for regulating the temperature, the speed of travel, the number of stops to be made en route as well as the number and age of the birds being carried.

In hot temperatures it is recommended to keep the centre row on the vehicle clear.

Within the transport unit the temperature for day-old chicks may not drop below 16C and may not rise above 24C. The temperature within the boxes may not exceed 37C. Temperature regulation within the transport unit should at all times be possible for the person in charge or the driver/captain of the transport unit. For this purpose, a temperature detecting system is necessary.

III.1.7. Feeding and watering. It is not recommended to unload poultry for the purposes of feeding and watering before their place of destination.

III.1.8. Access. Provision should be made for inspection of the birds. Access to the birds is desirable but with large commercial consignments it may not be practicable for each bird. In these cases there must at least be the possibility of inspecting the birds in the outer containers.

III.2. Duration and interruption of the journey

III.2.1 Duration. The duration of the journey will be influenced by the need to feed and water the birds carried.

When day-old chicks are to be transported the consignment should leave as soon as possible after hatching and must reach the farm of destination within 72 hours after hatching.

111.2.2. Delays. Poultry should be transported to their destination as soon as possible and delays should be reduced to a minimum. If delays occur, particular attention should be given to the condition of the birds.

Consignments of poultry should be given priority at frontier posts, in ports, at airports and in other places where delays may be expected to occur.

III.3. Care during transport

III.3.1. Care. Care must be taken of the consignment by the driver of the vehicle or any other person in charge, although it is not always possible to take good care of each individual bird in large consignments.

Containers with poultry should not be exposed to severe jolts or shaking.

Drivers of road vehicles should ensure a smooth and considerate journey and avoid abrupt changes of speed and direction.

If, during transportation by road, a stop is inevitable, the vehicle should in hot weather be parked in the shade and in cold weather in a sheltered place, bearing in mind in both cases the need to maintain adequate ventilation.

Vehicles should not be parked on a steep incline.

III.4. Emergency killing

III.4.1. Emergency killing. At airports, ports and other places where poultry are regularly loaded and/or unloaded in large numbers, contingency plans should be made for emergency killing.

It is recommended that appropriate equipment for emergency killing is available at places where day-old chicks are regularly loaded and/or unloaded.

Emergency killing should be carried out by a veterinarian or another competent person.

III.5. Tasks of the official veterinarian

III.5.1. Interruption of the transport. When during transport an official veterinarian becomes aware of problems, he must not allow the transport to proceed until measures have been taken to ensure that the welfare of the birds is protected.

IV. Post-transport

IV.1 Unloading

IV.1.1. Care. On arrival at their destination, poultry should be unloaded from their transport containers as soon as possible. Where early unloading is not possible, a vehicle carrying poultry should be parked so as to protect the birds from extremes of weather whilst ensuring adequate ventilation. Such ventilation could also be provided by driving the vehicle around.

Containers shall be unloaded horizontally, preferably by mechanical means, and always with care. Birds shall be removed from them individually, with care being taken to prevent injuries such as broken legs and wings. Birds which escape shall be caught immediately.

Birds for slaughter should be slaughtered as soon as possible; such birds, when they are visibly ill or injured, shall be killed immediately.

Birds which are not to be slaughtered on arrival should be examined closely at unloading and veterinary assistance obtained if necessary; the birds should be offered food and water as soon as possible. After prolonged periods of transport the health of these birds should be monitored for four or five days.

If at the destination a new diet is given, a gradual changeover is recommended.

IV.1.2. Responsibility. The person in charge of the transport must bring to the attention of the person in charge at the destination any aspect of the journey which might affect the future welfare of the birds: the last feeding and watering times and the relevant details of any treatment carried out, including any medication administered. The person in charge of the transport shall not leave the premises of destination until he is satisfied that a suitable person has taken charge of the birds.

IV.1.3. Reporting. The consignee should report to the competent authorities any problems relating to a consignment of poultry so that international transportation can be kept under constant review and the welfare of these birds improved as more information becomes available.

IV.2. Facilities

IV.2.1. General. Facilities for adequate unloading should be at hand. It is preferable to unload containers from vehicles by mechanical means instead of human labour. Mechanical ventilation should be at hand for waiting periods in hot weather.

IV.2.2. Care. For birds which are not to be slaughtered, suitable facilities should be provided on arrival for rest and recovery as well as for feeding and watering.

IV.3. Tasks of the official veterinarian at unloading

IV.3.1. Liaison. The official veterinarian should notify any problems which arose during the journey to the authorities of the country of destination, who should then report back to the authorities in the country of origin or countries of transit as appropriate.

Close liaison between the importer and the veterinary authorities and between the different veterinary authorities involved is essential.

Annex: Transportation by air


As far as the welfare of poultry is concerned, the existing Live Animals Regulations, drawn up by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), are covered in the general part of the code of conduct or in this annex. In some cases the following guidelines may be more precise or more restrictive than the IATA regulations.

I. Pre-transport

I.1. Preliminaries

I.1.2. Planning of the journey. Planning the transport of poultry by air involves special arrangements for loading and unloading and, when applicable, for transfer from one aircraft to another or for reloading at a stop-over.

The effect of any temperature variation must be considered when there are significant climate differences between departure, stop-over and destination airports. It may be necessary to use an alternative route to avoid extremes of climate at stopovers. In addition, it is also desirable to arrange for flights to arrive at stopovers and final destination at times when the temperatures are expected to be reasonable.

I.1.3. Notification. The captain of the aircraft should be informed by means of a notification to captain (NOTOC) about the presence of poultry shipments aboard the aircraft before the start of the journey so that adequate ventilation and temperature settings can be applied.

I.4. Designation of the person in charge

I.4.1. Person in charge. It is not always necessary for consignments of poultry shipped by air to be accompanied by attendants, but if not, the crew, ground staff or handling personnel must be conversant with the relevant guidelines and standards of care contained in the current edition of the IATA Live Animals Regulations.

II. Loading

II.1 Handling

II.1.2 Personnel. Only experienced personnel should handle the birds.

II.2. Loading of the transport unit

11.2.2. Facilities. Adequate facilities must be available to receive the birds, to take care of them, to inspect them and to load them on a unit load device (ULD).

Cleaning and disinfecting facilities should be available.

It is advisable to keep day-old chicks in an area free of draught.

II.2.3. Timing. Poultry should be loaded onto the aircraft as close as possible to take-off time to avoid difficulties in maintaining proper ventilation and temperature control. They should only be held in the immediate vicinity of an aircraft for as short a period as possible before the actual loading takes place, to avoid stress due to such factors as excessive noise, flashing lights and inclement weather.

II.2.4. Positioning. Poultry must not be stowed in the vicinity of other cargo which could harm them. They shall also be positioned in such a way that circulation of air around them is not impeded, and that during stopovers unloading and reloading can be avoided.

III. Transport

III.1. Conditions

III.1.1. Construction and design. Poultry should be transported in containers. The design and construction of such containers should follow the principles of design laid down for that purpose in the relevant container notes hereafter of the current edition of the IATA Live Animals Regulations.

III.1.5 Ventilation

As the ventilation capacity of most aircraft is reduced during take-off, landing and when on the ground, calculations must take these factors into account. When determining the ventilation capacity of an aircraft, up-to-date performance information, and not merely the manufacturer's original specifications, must be considered.

Transport of poultry in force-ventilated compartments is preferred to transport in non-force-ventilated belly holds. If poultry are transported in non-force-ventilated belly holds, and in particular when the aircraft is on the ground, an adequate supply of air must be ensured.

There shall be sufficient space all around the container for air circulation and this shall not be obstructed.

III. 1.6. Temperature. A combination of high temperature and high relative humidity poses a risk to poultry.

In the case of day-old chicks, all measures should be taken to avoid the temperature in the aircraft compartment remaining above 27 C, with relative humidity in excess of 80%, for periods of an hour or more.

It should be taken into consideration that temperatures have been found to rise when the aircraft is on the ground and during take-off and landing. Additional ventilation should be provided if necessary when the aircraft is on the ground and when this is possible it may be advisable to leave the cargo doors closed when the outside temperature is high so that the cargo compartment containing poultry can be kept at a lower temperature.

III.3. Care during transport

III.3.1. Care. During unscheduled stops and in other unforeseen situations the attendant or in his absence the captain of the aircraft should take all necessary steps to ensure the welfare of the birds. During scheduled stops this should be done by the attendant, the ground staff or handling personnel, or any other competent person.

III.4. Emergency killing

III.4.1. Emergency killing. Decompression of an aircraft may not be used as a means of emergency killing.

Design and construction of containers for transportation by air of poultry