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 the very least, 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 best of conditions, 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. Waiting in line to unload is a serious problem, too; animals stalled in queues or stuck in traffic, especially on asphalt in hot weather, are extremely stressed and may 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 doing so.
Stress from transport is a significant contributor to animal disease and meat contamination. Transport plays a role in the transmission of pathogens like Salmonella and E. coli from animals to people. Consequently, prudent transport laws not only reduce animal suffering but also improve food safety.
Due to serious welfare concerns and the potential for spreading disease, AWI supports on-farm slaughter and the transport of meat rather than live animals. Until that is accomplished, AWI advocates:
- maximum journey times significantly less than 28 hours; standards for trucks that include provisions for ventilation and protection from heat and cold; and prohibition of the transport of unfit, very young and late-term pregnant animals
- a network of animal rest stations along major interstate routes
- mandatory driver training and programs that respond to major highway accidents involving animals
- an effective mechanism for enforcing transport regulations and significant penalties for violators