BOOKS: Long Distance Transport & Welfare of Farm Animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2008:

Long Distance Transport & Welfare of Farm Animals
Edited by Michael C. Appleby, Victoria Cussen,
Leah Garcés, Lasley A. Lambert & Jacy Turner
CABI Publishing (2001 Evans Road, Cary, NC
27513), 2008. 450 pages, hardcover, $150.

“Most people interested in animal welfare
would agree that transporting livestock destined
for slaughter across either an ocean or a
continent is a practice that should be
discontinued,” writes Colorado State University
animal science professor Temple Grandin in her
foreword to Long Distance Transport & Welfare of
Farm Animals.

“Shipping the chilled or frozen meat and
processing the animals in the region of origin
would improve welfare and reduce stress,”
Grandlin opines.
Long Distance Transport & Welfare of Farm
Animals collects papers by 23 leading experts.
About half are staff or consultants for animal
welfare groups. The rest work in academic
support of the livestock industry. Together they
assess the status of animal welfare in animal
transport by region.
Though each region presents a somewhat
different context, the basic problems of
overcrowding, rough handling, and ill effects
from long rides without rest are essentially the
same in all parts of the world.
Grandin points out that while most harm
to livestock in transport originates with
attempts to save money, the net outcome is that
sick and injured animals cost the livestock
industry as a whole much more than the sum of
savings by corner-cutting individual farmers,
brokers, transporters, and slaughterhouses.
Long distance livestock transport in itself is
economically inefficient, but persists largely
because of insufficient investment in developing
the alternatives.
Grandin mentions 19 specific points of
conflict between short-term economic interest and
the welfare of animals in transport, each of
which might be remedied if the livestock
marketing system could be modified to share the
economic results of better animal welfare
throughout the supply chain.
In much of the world, Grandin notes,
“Transporting live animals usually requires less
capital than building and operating a slaughter
plant”–at least up front. When the cumulative
cost of transport is taken into account,
building an up-to-date slaughterhouse and
refrigeration infrastucture to distribute and
sell frozen meat would quickly pay for itself;
but the economic structure of the industry favors
tens of thousands of haulers moving millions of
live animals, instead of pooled investment and
shared returns.
The contributors to Long Distance
Transport & Welfare of Farm Animals all favor
improved legislation, but none seem to see
legislation as more than a step toward systemic
change which must be motivated by market forces
and cultural pressure.
“The European Union has more
comprehensive legislation for animal welfare
during animal transport than anywhere else in the
world. However, legislation must be adequately
enforced,” summarizes World Society for the
Protection of Animals representative Victoria
Cussen. Her essay details “A large degree of
variability in enforcement” of the European
legislation, even though Europe is a relatively
small part of the world with high public
awareness of animal welfare.
Donald Broom of the Cambridge University
Animal Welfare Information Centre points out that
what is “long” transport varies by species.
“Because poultry held in crates or drawers cannot
be effectively fed and watered during transport,”
Broom explains, “journeys [for birds] must be
considerably shorter.”
Broom is equally critical of how mammals
are usually hauled to slaughter.
“When four-legged animals are standing on
a surface subject to movement, such as a road
vehicle,” Broom points out, “they position
their feet outside the normal area under the body
in order to help them to balance. They also need
to take steps out of this normal area if
subjected to accelerations in a particular
direction. Hence, they need more space than if
standing still.”
But livestock are seldom allowed even as
much space in transport as they get in
confinement husbandry.
Instead, haulers typically try to pack
as many animals into a vehicle as can be shoved
aboard. The animals are kept upright by the
pressure of the bodies of the other animals
around them, or by nose and tail tying. Many
are injured, and injure each other.
In Broom’s view, “Stocking densities
must be defined as floor area per animal of a
specified live weight.” Definitions based on
floor area per animal “are not an acceptable way
of defining floor space requirements,” Broom
believes, “since they take no account of
variation in animal weight.”
Within Long Distance Transport & Welfare
of Farm Animals, there is no disagreement with
the recommendation of the Federation of
Veterinarians of Europe that animals should be
slaughtered as near the point of production as
possible [and no opposition to slaughtering
animals in the first place], but several
contributors are skeptical that long hauls can be
S.A. Rahman believes that religious and
cultural requirements in parts of the Middle East
will thwart attempts to replace imports of live
sheep and cattle with a frozen carcass trade,
“at least during the period of Hajj,” the
pilgrimage season, when about 25% of all
livestock slaughter in the region occurs.
However, Rahman points out, other livestock
imports could be replaced by frozen carcass trade.
“If Australia, New Zealand, and the
European Union ceased to supply the Middle East
with live animals, it would of course be
essential to ensure that this market was not
filled by imports from countries where regulation
is weaker,” Rahman writes.
Those countries might be China, or any
of several livestock-exporting nations in South
America and Africa.
African nations already supply livestock
to the Middle East in high volume, but the
commerce moves mostly overland, and is much less
visible than the multi-story livestock vessels
running back and forth from Australia and New
“Limited power availability plays a part
in the movement of animals,” explains Karen
Menczer in her coverage of Africa. “It is more
efficient to transport the live animal rather
than to transport meat when the potential exists
for spoilage without cold storage.”
African livestock are often still driven
to slaughter on their own feet. In parts of East
Africa, says Menczer, herds may be driven for
75 days to reach urban markets. As the
“vegetation is thorny, and water points and
pasture are scarceŠcarcasses of animals too weak
to go on, suffering from lack of water, are
frequently found on the savannah.
“Trekking is steadily decreasing due to
increased urbanization, land use conflicts, and
initiatives to encourage pastoralists to become
sedentary,” Menczer writes. “Transport by rail
is decreasing as well due to deteriorating
railway infrastructure. Transport by road is
increasing. Transport by ship occurs mainly for
“In many countries in the region,”
Menczer adds, “bureaucracy and corruption
prolong already long trips, and increase
exposure to heat and sun and the amount of time
spent without food, water, and rest. Overland
trips can take seven days [along common routes] and can be even longer if the truck stops at more
markets along the way, has a breakdown, or is
stopped at borders for incorrect permits or for
harassment. The multiplicity of control points,
taxes and fees complicate trade routesŠRough
terrain is also a problem. In some of these
countries, roads are so rutted that it is
impossible for animals to remain upright in the
Laws meant to protect livestock in
transport exist in South Africa, Egypt,
Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Eritrea,
Menczer notes, but the laws are seldom enforced,
chiefly because the enforcement agencies, where
any exist, lack the resources to do much more
than make token gestures.
“By far the greatest cultural influence
on the perception and management of livestock is
the extent of poverty within the country,” says
Menczer –but she takes issue with conventional
belief about the relationship of poverty to
animal welfare.
“It is widely held,” Menczer summarizes,
“that countries which have high incidences of
poverty are unable to afford good care for
animals. However, contradicting this is the
attitude of small farmers, who are often the
poorest among the populationŠThe attitude goes
beyond simply caring for the animal because of
the price the animal will bring at market. There
is true animal husbandry involved, which
arguably takes time and money that could be
spent elsewhere.”
For example, Menczer says, “In East
Africa, where there are both Christian and
Moslem livestock producers, strong cultural
beliefs and practices influence the management of
livestock. These communities tend their animals
with a lot of care and affectionŠThis balance is
disturbed when livestock traders who treat
animals as commodities enter the
equationŠThroughout Africa,” Menczer contends,
“cattle producers have close ties to their
livestock. Once an animal is sold to middlemen,
the bond is broken.”
The issues in South America appear to be
comparable to those in Africa, according to
summaries by Carmen Gallo and Tamira Tadich,
except that South America is less politically
fragmented. As in Africa, the nations most
involved in international livestock export are
also among the most affluent, and have some
visible animal advocates–but not enough to have
much influence.
In China, points out University of
Houston professor Peter Li, the biggest problem
throughout the livestock sector may be sheer
inexperience. Globally, animal agriculture has
rapidly expanded during the past 50 years, but
in most nations the expansion has involved an
already experienced livestock industry labor pool
finding ways to raise, haul, and slaughter more
By contrast, the explosive growth of the
Chinese livestock industry has come in regions
with little history of animal agriculture, and
came initially by government directive, not by
initiative on the part of producers. Nine of
the 10 Chinese provinces now producing the most
animals were not among the top 10 as recently as
25 years ago.
Li is optimistic that the Chinese
government supports improved animal welfare as
part and parcel of continuing to build the
industry, in transport as well as in other
aspects, but believes that economic
considerations rather than actual concern for the
animals are motivating official endorsement of

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