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 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.
The following changes to transportation regulations are critical:
- Limit Long Distance Transport of all animals to a MAXIMUM of 8 hours.
- There needs to be cooperation between the Department of Transportation and the USDA to exchange information and resources with strict enforcement of the laws and regulations.
- ALL long distance transport trailers should be equipped with on board watering devices.
- Enact Federal laws to regulate mandatory water systems, loading density, and handling as well as the number of animals and dividers that have to be in place.
Unfortunately, even the minimum standards of the 28 Hour Law offer no protection, since currently enforcement is virtually non-existent. When Animals' Angels 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 had 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 whatsoever of enforcement and no proof that the animals are actually being checked upon arrival. If they are, why is there only one 28 Hour Law case on file?
Yet the 28-Hour Law, as deficient and as poorly enforced a regulation as it is, it 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 decent care of animals in transit. Indeed, several insurance companies offer quite 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 interests can basically do whatever they want, unfettered by laws or the fear of 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 slats 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.