Transportation of Farmed Animals:
Regulations in the U.S. and Mainland China

July 31, 2021Zihao Yu

“Even under the most controlled conditions within the industry, transport is stressful. Farm animals are deprived of food, water, and bedding during transport. Trucks are so overcrowded that animals are unable to rest and may trample or fight with one another in search of space. The risk of injury is particularly high during loading and unloading when electrical prodding and other brutal handling methods are often used to move fearful and disoriented animals. Trucks waiting in line to unload is a serious problem as well; animals in trucks that are stalled in queues or stuck in traffic, especially on asphalt in hot weather, are extremely stressed and may even die as a result.” (Animal Welfare Institute)


Animals during transportation can suffer from severe situations harming their health physically and mentally. Many animals can feel distressed and pain, and even get sick, injured, or dead during long-distance transport, once they are not provided enough water, food, oxygen, and space. Animals used in agriculture are the largest amount of animals that are suffered by transportation. Many jurisdictions have regulations on the transportation of farmed animals to ensure animal health and welfare. This article demonstrates the issues and regulations in the United States and mainland China.

Animal Welfare Issues

Welfare, stress, and disease are three interrelated issues for farmed animals during transport. According to the “Five Domains” model of animal welfare, the concept of animal welfare includes the following domains: 1) nutrition (water intake, food intake, food quality); 2) environment (temperature, confinement, shelter); 3) health (disease, injury); 4) behavior (choices, limitation); and, 5) mental state (pain, thermal comfort, boredom, frustration, happiness).


A variety of factors can have impacts on farmed animal welfare during transportation, including:

(HAILS M.R. (1978). - Transport stress in animals: a review. Anim. Regid. Stud., 1,289-343.)


The welfare for different species of animals can vary according to their character, nature, size, and transportation methods. Generally, the following shall be ensured for animals during transportation:


a) Sufficient palatable, nutritionally-balanced feed, adequate for physiological requirements;

b) Sufficient drinkable water;

c) Air which is free of noxious gases;

d) An environment that provides the opportunity for behavioral expression and which does not cause undue physical restriction;

e) Natural or artificial protection from adverse weather conditions;

f) Protection from parasites, disease, predators, and injury;

g) Access to suitable treatment (including prompt humane slaughter) when required.

(BRENNAN R.G., BECKETT R.J., NURTHEN E.J. & CANNON R.M (1988). - The shipboard veterinary clinical service. How many sheep make a mob? In Bureau of Rural Resources Proceedings No. 3, Standing Committee on Agriculture Workshop on Livestock Export Research. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, Australia, 72-85.)

"chicken truck ... er ... turkey truck" by eschipul is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

U.S. Regulations

Animal Health Protection Act authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to restrict the importation, entry, or further movement in the United States, or order the destruction or removal, of animals (including livestock) and related conveyances and facilities for reasons of livestock pest or disease control, or humane treatment. Authorizes related activities respecting exportation, interstate movement, cooperative agreements, enforcement and penalties, seizure, and quarantine, and disease and pest eradication.

The Twenty-Eight Hour Law is the federal law enacted by Congress in 1873, amended in 1906 and 1994. The law requires that a carrier transporting animals interstate “may not confine animals in a vehicle or vessel for more than 28 consecutive hours without unloading the animals for feeding, water, and rest.” If transport will exceed 28 consecutive hours, animals must be unloaded in a humane manner, put into pens equipped with feed and water, and allowed to rest for at least five hours before transport is resumed. The law does not apply when animals are transported in a vehicle or vessel in which the animals have food, water, space, and an opportunity for rest.

Animals may be confined for--

(A) more than 28 hours when the animals cannot be unloaded because of accidental or unavoidable causes that could not have been anticipated or avoided when being careful; and

(B) 36 consecutive hours when the owner or person having custody of animals being transported requests, in writing and separate from a bill of lading or other rail forms, that the 28-hour period would be extended to 36 hours.

Sheep may be confined for an additional 8 consecutive hours without being unloaded when the 28-hour period of confinement ends at night.

A rail carrier, express carrier, or common carrier (except by air or water), a receiver, trustee, or lessee of one of those carriers, or an owner or master of a vessel that knowingly and willfully violates this section is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty of at least $100 but not more than $500 for each violation. Read more here.


The Horse Protection Act is another federal law that prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, exhibitions, sales, or auctions. The Horse Protection Act also prohibits the transportation of sored horses to or from any of these events.


American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act of 2011 amends the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption. Section 5 of the Horse Protection Act (15 U.S.C. 1824) is amended to prohibit “[t]he shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of any horse or other equine to be slaughtered for human consumption”.


Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2021 would ensure more humane treatment of horses on roads and highways by prohibiting the transportation of horses in interstate transportation in motor vehicles containing two or more levels stacked on top of one another.

"Future Bacon" by Phil Roeder is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Mainland China Regulations

Chinese legislation does not have animal welfare nor anti-cruelty terms for farmed animals. Farmed animal welfare is protected indirectly by preventing infectious disease, and the protection of animal health, food quality, consumers’ rights, public health, and public safety. The major goal is that animals shall be maintained healthy during transportation.


Animal Husbandry Law of the People's Republic of China (2015 amendment) provides the basic regulation on transportation of farmed animals in Chapter V. Transport livestock and poultry must comply with animal epidemic prevention conditions stipulated in law, administrative regulations, and rules of the State Council Animal Husbandry Administrative Department, take measures to protect livestock and poultry safety and provide the necessary space and feeding water conditions for transported livestock and poultry. (Article 53.1) The relevant departments examined livestock and poultry in transportation, and there should be a basis for law and administrative regulations. (Article 53.2)

Animal Epidemic Prevention Law of the People's Republic of China (2021 Amendment) has the purpose to strengthen the management, prevention, control, purification of animal epidemic prevention activities, to eliminate animal diseases, to promote the development of the aquaculture industry, to prevent people's livestock infectious diseases, and to ensure public health safety and human health. (Article 1) Before slaughtering, selling or transporting animals and selling or transporting animal products, the owner shall report to the local animal health supervision agency in accordance with the provisions of the State Council Agricultural Rural Administration. (Article 49.1) Slaughter, operation, transportation animals, as well as animals used in non-food properties, such as scientific research, shows, performances, and competitions, should have a quarantine certificate. Animal products operating and transporting, should have a quarantine certificate, and quarantine logo. (Article 51) A quarantine certificate should be provided by air, railway, road, water transportation animals and animal products, and shipper should provide a quarantine certificate; there is no quarantine certificate, the carrier shall not carry animals and animal products. (Article 52.1) The penalties are indicated in Chapter 11 of the Law.

Agricultural Product Quality Safety Law of the People's Republic of China (2018) defines an agricultural product as plants, animals, microorganisms, and products obtained in agricultural activities. (Article 2) Agricultural products should comply with national compulsory technical specifications in packaging, preservative, storage, and transportation. (Article 29)

The other sources are the national standards or technician standards for these laws.

National Standards (GB):

Other Standards:

Some cities or provinces also have local regulations for farmed animal transportation, such as Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shaanxi Province, Beijing, and Kunming.

OIE Standards

OIE is the World Organisation for Animal Health. The Terrestrial Animal Health Code (2019) by OIE provides standards for the improvement of terrestrial animal health and welfare and veterinary public health worldwide. According to Section 7 of the Code, Animal Welfare includes the standards for the transportation of animals by sea, by land, and by air. These recommendations apply to the following live domesticated animals: cattle, buffaloes, camels, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, and equines. They will also be largely applicable to some other animals, e.g. deer, other camelids, and ratites. Wild animals and feral animals may need different conditions. Read more here.

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