In today’s specialized food system, the majority of animals raised for food are transported to different locations based on their "stage of production" such as breeding or fattening. At minimum, animals are transported from the farm to the slaughterhouse, and many will be subjected to the additional stress of a livestock auction.
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, too; 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.
The consolidation of the meat industry over the past few decades has resulted in fewer slaughterhouses, forcing animals to endure longer drives. In 1873, when most farm animals traveled by rail, the Twenty-Eight Hour Law was created to ensure that animals travelling 28 hours or more were allowed to rest for at least five hours, as well as have access to food and water. In 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, charged with administering the law, announced it was applying the law to trucks, but there is no record of the agency actually doing so.
International transport of farm animals from the U.S. to countries other than Canada or Mexico has increased significantly since 2010, with nearly 200,000 live animals being transported in the year 2012 alone. Most of these animals are subjected to ocean journeys that can last weeks and include many stressful experiences—including inadequate ventilation, noise, motion sickness, and heat stress.