The European Commission has announced new, stricter rules on the transportation of live animals to help ease their suffering during long journeys.
Millions of animals are transported every year
If EU governments approve the plans, the existing maximum journey time of 28 hours, with a one hour break, will be cut to nine, followed by a compulsory 12-hour rest period.
The Commission is also introducing a new series of checks to make it easier to prosecute offenders.
Animal rights campaigners say the proposals could go further, adding that they will still allow live animals to be transported from one end of Europe to another.
But EU health and consumer affairs commissioner David Byrne said the proposals marked a "radical" reform of existing rules.
"I believe it provides the best tools to introduce real improvements in animal welfare over the short to medium term," he said.
"My main aims are to minimise the stress that animals go through and to ensure that they arrive at their destination as fast as possible."
About 20 million animals a year are moved by road, rail and sea across Europe between farms, usually moving between cold and warm climates under stressful confined conditions.
The proposed laws recognise that most of the stress on the animals occurs around loading and unloading and therefore introduces rules to deal with situations before and after transport.
Animal rights groups welcomed the reforms but said long-haul journeys for animals should be banned outright.
"We have accumulated over many years a mountain of evidence of animal suffering during long journeys," said David Wilkins, director of Eurogroup for Animal Welfare.
"The only practical solution is to apply an absolute limit of eight hours on all road journeys of animals for slaughter."
The laws could be in force by the end of 2005 if approved by the Council of Ministers after consultation of the European Parliament.
Other changes include:
Young and pregnant animals:
A ban on the transport of pregnant animals one week before they are to give birth.
Newborn animals such as piglets less than four weeks old, lambs less than one week, calves less than two weeks old and horses less than four months old will not be able to be transported beyond 100 kilometres (60 miles) away.
(At present transportation is illegal for newborn animals whose navel has not completely healed but there are no specifications for the different species.)
Specific temperature systems according to species, including driver cabin with alert system.
Permanent access to drinking water.
More space according to species and length of journey.
A ban on tethering animals.
(At present compartments must be partitioned, there must be access to animals, but no additional space for long distance journeys.)
Enforcement via Journey Log when longer than nine hours, not only when border crossed.
Someone has to be made responsible for entire transportation.
(At present check are only made via a Route Plan which is only mandatory if a border is crossed and the journey is longer than eight hours.)