Almost everyone transporting live gamebirds will be affected by new laws that come into effect tomorrow. DEFRA has been working on the new Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order since 2004. Previously poultry and game have been exempt from the rules governing livestock transportation, however, on 5 January, they will be included in the order.

The new laws affect anyone moving animals for commercial reasons, though DEFRA?s interpretation is that this excludes anyone keeping animals where ?the income does not exceed the expenses?. It is likely that for many privately run shoots this exemption will apply.

The extent of the impact of the regulations largely depends on the length of journey the birds are to undertake. If birds are moved further than 65km, transport conditions must adhere to a number of basic rules. The animals must be fit to travel, basic needs must be met and the journey length minimised to prevent suffering. If the journey is further than 65km and takes less than eight hours, transporters must be ?authorised? and comply with further DEFRA points. A Game Farmers? Association (GFA) spokesman explained:

?Authorisation is a simple matter of registering with the State Veterinary Service, which can be done now using a form on the animal health section of the DEFRA website. It is based on honesty, not inspection, and authorises the transporter for a period of five years.? As well as this, from 1 January 2008, transporters must also hold a certificate of competence, issued once the transporter has passed a multiple choice exam.

The GFA spokesman said: ?Competent gamefarmers will have no difficulty with the questions on stocking densities, bird handling and best practice in loading and unloading, but they will need to read up on the new legal aspects before sitting the test. We are working with training organisations and authorised awarding bodies to make this process as simple, cheap and unbureaucratic as possible. It looks as if the necessary training should be available at relatively low cost via the Internet within a few months.?

For more information and for authorisation forms, visit www.defra.gov.uk