The 28-Hour Law & timely influence
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2006:
Among the most encouraging regulatory developments for farmed
animals ever was the USDA disclosure on September 28, 2006, in a
letter to the Humane Society of the U.S., that since 2003 it has
recognized that Congress meant the Twenty-Eight Hour Law of 1873 to
limit the time that any hooved animals could be kept aboard any kind
Less encouraging was that the USDA for three years avoided
having to enforce the reinterpretation of the Twenty-Eight Hour Act,
and 1906 and 1994 amendments, by keeping knowledge that it had been
reinterpreted to themselves.
“The USDA clarified its position in a 2003 internal memo
distributed to government veterinarians,” explained Cristal Cody of
the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “The policy change came to light in
response to a legal petition that HSUS filed in October 2005 to
extend the law to trucks.”
Said USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service
spokesperson Jim Rogers, “We never considered the 1906 law as being
applicable to the transport of animals by truck,” Rogers said. “Now
we see that the meaning of the statutory term ‘vehicles’ means
Summarized Farmed Animal Watch, “The change in policy was
news to many organizations, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef
Association and the American Trucking Associations. It has become
common practice in the pig industry for two drivers to be assigned to
every trip, avoiding having to stop along the way. Trucks carrying
calves avoid stopping so the animals don’t lie down, said a
representative of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, who claims that
calves travel better standing.”
The livestock industry can be expected to fight the new USDA
interpretation–and disclosure that it exists may trigger a hostile
Congressional response. In a parallel situation, the USDA
arbitrarily exempted rats, mice, and birds from protection under
the Animal Welfare Act from 1971 until September 2000, by leaving
them out of the regulatory definition of “animal.” Suddenly, after
30 years of lawsuits and lobbying, the USDA settled a case brought
by the American Anti-Vivisection Society by agreeing to recognize
rats, birds, and mice as animals. Before 2000 ended, former U.S.
Senator Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina) pushed through Congress a
budget amendment that prevented the USDA from writing a new
regulatory definition of “animal,” and a year later won a further
amendment that permanently excludes rats, mice, and birds from
Animal Welfare Act coverage.
“We do not have enough people to even begin inspecting on the
roads,” Rogers told Cody, perhaps signaling that the USDA would
prefer to continue ignoring the Twenty-Eight Hour Law–or to have it
“The livestock industry has also long attempted to evade the
application of the Twenty-Eight Hour Law to trucks,” commented HSUS
spokesperson Erin Williams. “Just last week in testimony before
Congress, the National Pork Producers Council claimed that the law
was ‘enacted to deal with the movement to slaughterhouses of cattle
by train’ only and strenuously opposed the ‘extension’ of the
Twenty-Eight Hour Law to truck transport.”
The USDA letter to HSUS, said Williams, concluded that
“[w]e agree that the plain meaning of the statutory term ‘vehicle’ in
the Twenty-Eight Hour Law includes ‘trucks’ which operate as express
carriers or common carriers.”
Added Williams, “USDA also noted that it is working to
investigate “alleged violations of the Twenty-Eight Hour Law, and is
currently investigating a shipment of breeding pigs from Canada to
Mexico,” a case involving the deaths of more than 150 pigs who
arrived by truck at a Brownsville, Texas, livestock export facility
in July after an extended journey of more than 28 hours. HSUS, Farm
Sanctuary, and other animal protection organizations have asked both
state and federal officials to investigate the case.”
That sounds a bit more promising.
If the Twenty-Eight Hour Law is at last enforced as Congress
intended, a generation before William Howard Taft banished the cows
who provided the Presidential milk supply from the White House lawn
circa 1910, more animals will benefit than from any other animal
welfare regulation in effect worldwide.
Immediately affected will be the 40 million cattle and 123
million pigs who are trucked to slaughter each year in the U.S.
“More than 50 million of the nearly 10 billion farm animals
transported by truck every year (counting chickens, who are still
not protected) must endure trips far in excess of 28 hours without
food, water or rest,” charged Williams. For example, “A 2005
Compassion Over Killing undercover investigation of long-distance pig
transport found dead animals left on trucks for more than 30 hours,
animals enduring extreme heat without water, and animals suffering
from a variety of injuries [received in loading and transport],
including bruises, abrasions and bleeding lacerations on their
bodies, legs and ears.”
Also in 2005, Animals’ Angels, Animal Rights Hawaii, and
the Canadian Coalition for Farm Animals documented similar suffering
among pigs shipped in weekly lots of 400 to Hawaii from Alberta,
Canada, a total journal of more than eight days. If “vehicles”
really means any vehicle now, ships are also vehicles and that trade
could be stopped.
By helping to establish transport time standards, USDA
enforcement could help the European Union to introduce and enforce
similar limits on the length of time animals can be aboard trucks
without off-truck rest, still a frequent problem, as illustrated by
an October 11, 2006 bulletin from Compassion In World Farming.
“Six truckloads of British calves exported for veal arrived
at Dover docks last night,” CIWF said, “and were expected to sail
for continental Europe in the early hours of this morning. However,
the boat, the Claymore, only turned up at midday today.” The
calves were loaded after spending “15 hours on the docks, packed on
the trucks, without food, only able to drink water if they could
reach the drinkers on the truck. Although the trucks are destined
for Holland, France, Spain and Belgium,” CIWF continued, “the
drivers have now been instructed to head for a staging post at Veurne
in Belgium and give the calves 24 hours rest, food and water. CIWF
will seek verification that this rest does in fact take place,” the
bulletin pledged, “as previous experience shows that stops for food
and watering are frequently ignored in continental Europe.”
Enforcing the Twenty-Eight Hour Law could also be influential
in India, where because cattle slaughter is legal in only two states,
cattle are often clandestinely transported long distances to
slaughter, under abominable conditions. This too is illegal, but
enforcing the law is typically left to brave individual
representatives of humane societies.
Clementien Pauws of the Karuna Society, badly beaten by
cattle transporters in October 2006 (page 6) was only the most recent
of many victims of the failures of Indian governments to interdict a
traffic which may be the nation’s leading source of bribes paid to
public servants for ignoring their jobs. At least two Indian humane
workers have been killed in confrontations with illegal cattle
transporters since 2000. Several others have been severely injured.
The Visakha SPCA cow shelter was burned by illegal butchers and
transporters in 2000. Neither are police exempt from the violence
when they try to intervene. Bullets fired at two police officers who
tried to stop a cattle truck near Delhi in April 2004 killed a
sleeping roadside vendor.
The mayhem in India underscores the importance of live
transport to the meat trade everywhere. The meat trade and live
transport are virtually synonymous. Those whose livelihoods depend
on live transport can be expected to try to run over anyone who gets
in their way, politically if possible, but with at least one
literal precedent in the February 1995 death of British activist Jill
Phipps, 31, who was crushed by a cattle truck at a protest against
shipping live calves to continental Europe.
Global high stakes
Only slaughter for human consumption involves more animals
than live transport, and by a narrowing margin, as only a dwindling
few percent of livestock, worldwide, are still slaughtered at the
farms where they were raised.
Globally, more than 20 billion chickens, 1.5 billion sheep
and goats, 1.1 billion cattle, and 600 million pigs are transported
to slaughter each year.
The magnitude of the humane issues involved in transport
tends to increase with the distance that the animals are moved.
Partly this is because longer transport inherently means more time
spent in transit, and therefore more travel stress. Also of
significance is that the longer the haul, the greater the expense,
increasing the inclination of transporters to try to pack animals
together as densely as possible, to take more on each trip.
Some of the earliest written records of civilization include
discussions of how animals should be handled in taking them to market.
Unfortunately, despite thousands of years of proscriptions
against such practices as carrying poultry hung upside down by their
feet, the perceived economy and convenience of cruel livestock
transport methods has prevailed against humane teachings at almost
every point of conflict. To people accustomed to killing animals to
eat, hauling, driving, or handling them by cruel methods has
rarely been a visible concern.
Viewers of the 2004 Animals Asia Foundation video Dr. Eddie:
Friend or Food are typically shocked, both in China where it was
made and abroad, to see Guangdong live market workers tossing
jam-packed cages of dogs and cats from trucks to the ground, but
countless less widely distributed videos show similar treatment of
every species sent to slaughter, around the world, wherever the
traffic is not supervised by people who have both the will and the
legal authority to intervene.
Efforts to reform livestock transport and handling have
traditionally had for leverage only the certainty, in the ages
before refrigeration, that animals had to be alive and healthy in
appearance upon arrival at markets and slaughterhouses where buyers
inspected and bargained over those they would kill. Until recently
there was little profitable demand for animals dead or dying from
Because transportation was slow until modern times, moving
animals for slaughter more than a day’s walk rarely occurred. An
army on the march might be followed by drovers herding animals
“requisitioned” from unfortunate farmers along the route, but
otherwise moving livestock for many days to slaughter was not
profitable, until the arrival of barge canals and railways in the
early 19th century coincided with the growth of cities. Suddenly the
technology existed to make possible raising livestock far from the
points of consumption–and newly affluent urban residents could
afford to steeply increase the amount of meat they ate.
For most of human history, most people lived close to their
food sources, but throughout the world the advent of industrial
development has drawn most of the labor pool into cities, where they
are sustained by agricultural systems which of necessity use ever
fewer workers to produce more food. As more animals are produced and
transported, and the value of the human labor invested in each
animal diminishes, the cost of each animal death has also dropped.
Instead of trying to avoid losing any animals to transport-related
stress, illness, and injury, as farmers did when they raised
relatively few animals and the loss of even one could be an economic
blow, livestock producers who think of the animals as industrial
production units merely try to keep the losses low enough to minimize
harm to profit. Potential loss of profit from a predictable
percentage of animals reaching their destination dead is offset by
the revenue from rendering carcasses to recover byproducts, an
industry made profitable by collecting carcasses in volume.
Whether animals reach their destination dead is no longer the
economic consideration it was pre-barge and railway, but that is the
least of the equation. The introduction of refrigeration in the
early 20th century within the U.S. and more recently abroad means
that receiving visibly suffering animals is no longer an economic
liability, unless the animals have a disease that is potentially
communicable to humans through consumption. Otherwise, the
overwhelming majority of consumers will see only parts of a processed
frozen carcass. Most people who eat meat will never have the
opportunity to decide that any particular animal looks too unhealthy
to be ingested.
Remarkably, the risks to both animals and human health
inherent in long-distance livestock transport were recognized in the
U.S. almost as soon as the practice began. The oldest U.S. humane
society, the American SPCA, was only two years old when Congress in
1871 began deliberating over the bill that became the Twenty-Eight
Hour Law of 1873.
Farmers in the politically dominant Northeast were concerned
that livestock transported by railroad would threaten their markets.
The public health sector, then a relatively new branch of
government, was alarmed at the potential for spreading epidemics of
food-borne disease, as occurred several times during the then-recent
U.S. Civil War, when troops were fed bacterially tainted carcasses.
Yet the debate was driven by concern for the suffering of
animals themselves, voiced from now curious directions. Animals &
Their Legal Rights, published by the Animal Welfare Institute,
extensively quotes an 1871 account issued by the Chicago Live Stock
Reporter that sounds much like animal rights literature produced
today in India, parts of Africa, and other places where animals are
still often moved by train.
“Eighteen to twenty cattle are forced into 30-foot cars,
giving less than two foot space to the animal, and not infrequently
smaller animals–calves, sheep and swine-are crowded under them,”
the Chicago Live Stock Reporter noted. “In this way they are often
carried for days without food, water, or possibility of lying down.”
Continues Animals & Their Legal Rights, “It was chronicled
in Chicago papers in 1870 as remarkable that a shipment of 194 cattle
from Brigham Young’s farm in Utah to Chicago, “riding 1,500 miles,
lost only 210 pounds per head.”
The original Twenty-Eight Hour Law sought to improve
livestock transport by requiring animals in transit to receive food,
water, and at least five hours of off-vehicle rest at regular
intervals on multi-day journeys.
Unfortunately, poorly built and maintained rest facilities,
combined with crude loading and unloading procedures, continued to
cause avoidable suffering.
Congress responded by creating the Bureau of Animal Industry
within the USDA in 1884. Charged with enforcing the Twenty-Eight
Hour Law, the BAI evolved into the Animal & Plant Health Inspection
Service of today.
“Numerous convictions for noncompliance with the law were
obtained, but [due to the deficiencies of the original law] the law
of 1873 was repealed and the present Twenty-Eight Hour Act was
enacted in 1906,” Animals & Their Legal Rights recalls.
Within the next year, animal transporters were fined 401
times for violations and 828 additional cases were pending. The
railways responded by establishing as many as 900 inspected livestock
rest points, but by 1988 barely two dozen still existed, even on
Four hundred cited violations of the Twenty-Eight Hour Act
per year were still the norm in 1967, according to the Animal
Welfare Institute, but fewer than 100 citations were issued in 1976
and none in 1988, when enforcement was effectively abandoned because
hooved livestock in the U.S. by then moved almost exclusively by
Birds not protected
The two inherent weaknesses of the Twenty-Eight Hour Law of
1906 were that it failed to anticipate either the growth of live
poultry transport or the advent of the automobile. In 1906, and for
about 20 more years, most poultry were still raised in back yards.
Poultry slaughter still existed mostly as an adjunct to egg
production. As keeping poultry was relatively easy, even in
pre-automobile cities, where chickens could derive much of their
nutrition from the undigested grain and insects in horse manure, no
one imagined that anything remotely resembling factory poultry
farming could be done or be profitable. The arrival of automobiles
simultaneously drove poultry out of U.S. streets, however, and
introduced vehicles which could inexpensively transport chickens.
Factory poultry farming and automobile use have continued to
grow in tandem throughout the world. Wherever paved roads are the
norm, poultry production is increasingly concentrated–but before
disease outbreaks associated with eating contaminated poultry began
to attract global concern in the early 1990s, poultry transportation
everywhere had largely escaped any form of regulation. Only the
rapid worldwide spread of the avian influenza strain H5N1,
potentially lethal to humans, appears to have generated any
regulatory awareness that abuses in poultry transport long decried by
animal advocates may have much broader consequences.
Mailing eggs for incubation and newly hatched chicks is among
those abuses. The practice began back when rural mail carriers were
typically the first people for miles around to own “station wagons,”
a term originally meaning the vehicle that served a post office.
Light hauling of all kinds was a regular part of postal business
before the privatization of the U.S. Postal Service in 1968, when
other carriers took over most parcel transport, and moving live
poultry for short distances between farms was easily done without
risk to the birds.
Postal regulations, like the Twenty-Eight Hour Act, have
yet to be updated to reflect the changes that overtook animal
husbandry just a few years later. Postal transport of eggs and
hatchlings by the mid-1950s had become an enormous subsidy to the
commercial poultry industry, and to the operators of bird shooting
clubs, who typically obtain quail, pheasant, and other birds used
as live targets by mail.
Humane opposition to mailing live birds dates at least to the
1960s. Mass deaths of young birds in transit, believed to occur by
the tens of thousands, attract mass media notice about once a year:
500 day-old bobwhite quail who froze to death en route from
Pittsburgh to Syracuse in May 2005, for example, and 3,370 young
turkeys who died in August 2006 on their way from Hybrid Turkeys, of
Canada, to Zacky Farms, of Fresno, California.
North Carolina Department of Agriculture food and drug safety
administrator Joe Reardon in August 2005 warned fellow officials
that the present U.S. Postal Service regulations governing transport
of live birds “are inadequate and present great potential for
contamination of the poultry industry.”
Yet instead of moving to stop mailing poultry, Senator
Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced a bill to prevent the U.S.
Postal Service from pursuing regulatory amendments that might keep
birds out of the mail. The bill died in committee, but will likely
be reintroduced whenever mailing poultry next comes under scrutiny.
The longest hauls
The automobile also made possible the livestock commerce
between Australia, New Zealand, and Middle Eastern destinations,
which for decades has amounted to trading cattle, sheep, and goats
Except at Ramadan, when personally slaughtering animals for
the fast-breaking feast is traditional for heads of households, the
major reason for shipping live animals instead of carcasses was until
recently the lack of refrigeration in most of the destination
counties. Introduction of refrigeration was and is inhibited by the
notorious lack of reliable electrical power grids. As electrical
delivery capacity expands, refrigeration is increasingly
commonplace, and carcass shipments are correspondingly capturing
market share, simply because far more carcasses fit on a boat than
live animals, and they take much less labor to handle.
But live exporters and the Middle Eastern slaughter industry
are unwilling to abandon their industry while anything of it lasts,
producing a multi-directional set of conflicts.
Whether or not Down Under live export is the cruelest part of
the animal transport industry, as some investigators allege, it
certainly involves subjecting animals to transport conditions for the
longest time, typically two to three weeks, and has been under
scrutiny for quite a long time as well. Protesting against live
exports was among the early activities of the Australian group Animal
Liberation, formed by Christine Townend and others soon after
Australian philosopher Peter Singer published his 1974 book Animal
Recalls Asa Lind of the Auckland-based Animal Rights Legal
Advocacy Network, “Between 1981 and 1985, over 600,000 sheep died in
transit. Within the first 20 years of the practice, it is estimated
that more than 2 million animals died,” including 40,600 sheep who
were killed in a fire aboard the Farid Fares.
Opposition to live export intensified in 1990 and 2003 when
tens of thousands of sheep were refused entry into Saudi Arabia for
16 and 11 weeks, respectively, on veterinary pretexts that were
widely doubted because of coincidences of timing with protest
involving Australian support of U.S. foreign policy. The 1990
incident came as the U.S. and allied forces prepared in Saudi Arabia
to repel Iraqi occupiers from Kuwait; the 2003 incident followed the
U.S. invasion of Iraq.
New Zealand barred live exports of lambs in 1997. Though New
Zealand exported at least 43,000 sheep for slaughter in 2003,
frozen carcass export appears to have taken over most of the New
Zealand market share.
Australian live sheep exports to the United Arab Emirates and
Jordan meanwhile reached a record high volume, increasing 40% and
183%, respectively, in fiscal 2006, according to Meat & Livestock
PETA claimed on September 20, 2006 to have influenced Qatar
to suspend live sheep imports from Australia, after showing
officials documentation of animal suffering in transit, but imports
from Australia actually increased, according to Rohit William
Wadhwaney of the Gulf Times, due to a suspension of imports from
India due to hoof and mouth disease.
Australian cattle exports to the United Arab Emirates doubled
in fiscal 2006, but that was still a relatively small part of the
Australian live export market. From 1996 through 2005, Australia
exported more than a million live cattle to Egypt, most of them
killed at the Bassatin slaughterhouse near Cairo.
Australian agriculture minister Peter McGuarin in February
2006 suspended the Egyptian traffic after the Australian edition of
60 Minutes aired video taken in January 2006 by Lyn White of Animals
Australia that showed Bassatin workers poking out the eyes of cattle
and cutting their leg tendons before subjecting them to a version of
hallal slaughter that clearly flunked the goal of the animals not
McGuarin reauthorized Australian cattle exports to Bassatin
and two other Egyptian slaughterhouses in October 2006, under two
memorandums of understanding which are supposed to ensure that the
animals are handled and killed in compliance with Australian
Australian Royal SPCA president Hugh Wirth objected that,
“There is still absolutely no requirement that the abattoirs stun the
animals to ensure they are rendered immediately unconscious.” This a
frequent objection of humane organizations to both hallal slaughter
and Jewish kosher slaughter, even when the slaughterhouses use the
modified methods– widely practiced in the U.S.–that were developed
in the early 1980s by Temple Grandin to expedite the killing and
reduce the animals’ awareness that they are being killed.
“Dealing with the devil”
Animals Australia, PETA, and the Society for the Protection
of Animal Rights in Egypt hoped to forestall the renewed trade by
rallying last-minute public opposition.
Responded Egyptian Society of Animal Friends chair Ahmed El
Sherbiny, in a statement amplified by Meat & Livestock Australia,
“I was pleased to hear that Australia expects to increase the amount
of live sheep and cattle it exports to the Middle East over the
Elaborated El Sherbiny in an October 10, 2006 e-mail to the
heads of 15 animal advocacy organizations who questioned his
judgement in welcoming more live animal shipments, “I have witnessed
real progress this week at Bassatin. An Australian, Peter Dundon,
has been working at Bassatin, creating improvements for local
Egyptian cattle, funded by Meat & Livestock Australia. Someone was
punished this week for cruelty to animals that was identified by
Dundon. New management at Bassatin was both cooperative and
supportive in enforcing punishment.
“”If animals are going to be imported into Egypt,” El
Sherbiny continued, “I would rather have them come from a country
that is investing in skills-based training, and is working with our
government to raise the standard of animal welfare in Egypt. My
approach may be regarded as dealing with the devil, but I regard it
as the lesser of two evils. I see no other exporting countries
making any efforts whatsoever, and they all have much lesser
standards in shipping and long distance transport. Most have none.”
Animals Australia, Compassion in World Farming, the World
Society for the Protection of Animals, and SPARE were among the
organizations objecting that El Sherbiny should not have endorsed
overseas live transport.
Objected SPARE founder Amina Sarwat Abaza, in an open letter
published as an advertisement in the Weekend Australian and the West
Australian newspapers, “The problems at Bassatin or other Egyptian
slaughterhouses cannot be solved by a new piece of equipment or a
training course. Even if Australian animals are treated differently
at Bassatin,” she asserted, “in other slaughter halls at this huge
abattoir other animals will still be subjected to brutal treatment.”
The Australian government “is reassuring the Australian
community that on recommencing the trade with Egypt, the welfare of
Australian animals will be overseen by the Egyptian General
Organization for Veterinary Services,” Abaza added. “Australians
should be aware that GOVS is the body responsible for placing
strychnine-laced food on the streets in Cairo to kill stray dogs and
cats in the cruelest way imaginable.”
El Sherbiny, SPARE, and WSPA have all long sought to
persuade GOVS to stop poisoning dogs and cats.
Only time will tell if El Sherbiny in his “dealing with the
devil” can use the Meat & Livestock Australia interest in selling
animals to Egypt to leverage improvement in the treatment of all
animals who are killed at Bassatin, and in transforming the
institutional culture of GOVS, as he hopes.
Meanwhile, that we here in the U.S. are still struggling to
re-implement the Twenty-Eight Hour Law, 133 years after Congress
passed it, illustrates the necessity of securing reform as well as
seeking abolition. Technological change will almost certainly end
intercontinental livestock shipment relatively soon, in favor of the
frozen carcass trade, just as the introduction of long-haul trucking
ended cattle transportation by railroad. Yet as the transition from
railways to trucks demonstrated, abolishing one source of abuse
achieves nothing if it is replaced by another.
Truckers were exempted from the Twenty-Eight Hour Law for
most of a century because even though the law existed, there was not
a sufficient climate of public awareness and concern to persuade the
USDA that extending it to trucks was a mandate.
Whatever becomes of the intercontinental livestock transport
industry, it is incumbent upon animal advocates in all nations to
build a mandate for strong animal welfare standards wherever animals
are slaughtered, hauled, or for that matter used in any other
way–and this must be done at the same time as inspiring and
encouraging fellow humans to rethink using animals for any harmful or