Each year, hundreds of millions of live farm animals are being transported thousands of miles to feedlots or to slaughter. By law, all farm animals can be transported for a full 28 hours without food, water or rest. Loading and unloading times can add hours to the time animals are in transit and are not included in the 28 hours. With a written request, sheep can even be transported for 36 hours.
Unfortunately, even the minimum standards of the 28 hour law offer no protection, since enforcement is virtually non-existent. When AA made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the USDA regarding violations, the only case of enforcement on file is an incident where AA has provided all the evidence.
Even industry insiders will admit the 28 hour law is not worth the paper it’s written on. The Department of Justice shares enforcement with the USDA. It is a simple matter of checking animals and paperwork at slaughter plants, auctions and export pens. However, there is no evidence of enforcement and no proof that the animals are really being checked upon arrival. If they are, why is there only one 28 hour law case on file?
Yet the 28 hour law, as poor and poorly enforced a regulation as it is, is the only existing law for the humane treatment of animals during transport. Unfortunately, it does not regulate other important aspects such as on board water systems, dividers, loading density and handling. The USDA issued a trucking guide of recommendations, but it is merely a guide of non-binding suggestions.
There is in fact, very little incentive to take good care of animals in transit. Several insurance companies offer very affordable policies for animals that die in transit. No reports have to be completed, the insurance company only reserves the right to terminate the policy or increase the premiums if they decide there are “excessive” death claims.
Transport interest can do whatever they want, unfettered by laws or the enforcement of laws. And what some transport interests do is more than enough to turn a meat eater’s stomach.
Animals experience exceptionally harsh conditions as climates change from freezing cold to scorching hot. AA investigators have observed pigs with extreme sunburn as well as pigs frozen to the metal slates of the trailer. Most trailers used for livestock transport in the United States have no watering devices and very limited protection from the elements. Overcrowding leads to decreased airflow and toxic ammonia levels; chickens, pigs and sheep are particularly susceptible and often die en route.
Without adequate ventilation, water, bedding materials, exhausted animals are forced to stand in their waste for the entire journey, or lie down to be trampled. AA investigators have documented terribly overloaded trucks with animals lying on top of each other.
The following changes to transportation regulations are critical:
1. Long Distance Transport of all animals should be limited to a maximum of 8 hours.
2. The Department of Transportation and USDA should work together, exchange information and resources to actually enforce the law.
3. All transport trailers used for long distance transport have to be equipped with on board watering devices.
4. Federal laws should be put in place that regulate mandatory water systems, loading density, handling as well as the number of animals & dividers that have to be placed.
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