Whenever animal welfare is discussed, animal transport is often left off the agenda. Yet the transport process can be a brutal experience and is largely unregulated.
Every day on my commute to work (20 miles interstate each way), without fail I see at least one livestock transport truck. Some days I’ll see a dozen. It’s usually large pigs heading south, baby pigs going north, and trucks crammed full of birds (or empty bird cages) in convoys of 4 or 5. Occasionally I’ll see trailers of cows, but they’re often hard to spot as their black hides appear near invisible inside the dark recesses of the trucks. What a constant, dismal reminder of why I am a vegan.
This always upsets me, but lately my thoughts have turned from the ultimate fate of the animals towards the animal transport process. A change in focus, but one that ultimately should be considered.
From the research I conducted, it seems there are very few actual requirements for animals transported by truck. The industry standard on treatment seems to be the guidelines put together by Temple Grandin in her Livestock Trucking Guide. They advocate for basic comfort measures, not necessarily for the sake of the animals, but in order to avoid investment loss. There are tips for reducing shrink (weight loss), bruising, and other things that can affect “meat quality”, all based on solid science, but focused solely on what’s best for business.
Lately we’ve been experiencing a heat wave that has daytime temps soaring into the 100s with “feels like” temperatures even higher. We’re getting constant warnings about what to do to protect ourselves and our companion animals, and the government has even started opening up heat relief centers and busing people to places with air conditioning, like malls and libraries.
And yet, I see livestock trucks transporting pigs as normal!! They cram up to 400 “hogs” into a truck and they’re not required to stop to give water or food. Grandin’s guide says that humid Midwestern conditions can be lethal and death losses double on hot, humid days. I wonder how many animals they’re losing to heat?
The same thing happens in winter, as many are transported in sub-zero temps. While some trucks will cover the holes to protect the animals in transit, not all of them bother and they’re not required to do it. I’ve also seen animals driven into heavy storms and high winds. They seem to carry on despite the weather conditions, no matter how unsuitable, and nobody bats an eye.
A chart called the Livestock Weather Safety Index was created to make it easier for shippers to know when their cargo might be in danger. However, I know for a fact that many aren’t following the advice of Grandin or looking to this index based on what I’m seeing on the road every day. If they were, they’d be on the road at night instead and I wouldn’t see them at all.
Obviously, the perspective of the industry is that they consider animals live stock, and in a way similar to transporting something like fruit. They aim to deliver their cargo in a condition suitable for their intended purpose and aren’t bothered by some bruising or a few losses along the way as long as they can maintain their ROI.
Imagine if those were puppies crammed hundreds in a truck in the ridiculous weather and under deplorable conditions. Do you think the average person would be outraged then? How can this be perceived so differently?