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VIA DOLOROSA: More than 20 million farm animals die on way to abattoir in U.S. every year

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The main causes of death in cattle were heatstroke, trauma and respiratory disease. In pigs it is hyperthermia (overheating). Additional risks included injuries from slipping in urine and manure, exhaustion, hunger and thirst.

SOPHIE KEVANY: Tens of millions of farm animals in the US are dying before they can be slaughtered, according to a Guardian investigation exposing the deadly conditions under which animals are transported around the country.

Approximately 20 million chickens, 330,000 pigs and 166,000 cattle are dead on arrival, or soon after, at abattoirs in the US every year, analysis of publicly available data shows. A further 800,000 pigs are calculated to be unable to walk on arrival.

Official records of how the animals died are not published, but veterinarian and welfare specialists told the Guardian the main causes were likely to be heat stress, especially during the summer months, and freezing temperatures and trauma.

The numbers of deaths were likely to have been increased by the long distances some animals are forced to travel and the rising frequency of transporting them. A truck carrying pigs was tracked while it travelled for 32 hours nonstop across the US in August last year, with the animals kept inside for the whole journey.

Even longer journeys have been reported for animals being transported across the border to or from Mexico and Canada. One trucker told an animal welfare investigator he had driven cattle from the Canadian city of Quebec to Mexico, a journey of almost two days…

Gwendolen Reyes-Illg, a veterinarian who works with Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), a US non-profit, said research indicates the main causes of death in cattle were “heatstroke, trauma and respiratory disease … [and in] pigs, the main reason is hyperthermia (overheating), especially during summer”… Additional risks included injuries from slipping in urine and manure, exhaustion, hunger and thirst…

Only one piece of legislation governs US animal transport: the 28-hour law, which was first enacted in 1873. The law states that animals must be unloaded, rested for five hours and given food and water if the journey is longer than 28 hours. It does not cover birds…

Despite animal transport investigations by Animal Outlook in 2005, 2012 and 2021 – all of which documented what the NGO alleged were violations of the law – no prosecutions have taken place to date… Dena Jones, a director at AWI,… said violations of the 28-hour law were likely to be common, “perhaps affecting 10% or more of farm animals transported between states”. SOURCE…

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