Farm animals raised for food are often transported multiple times throughout their lives, as many farms are now specialized for certain stages of production. At the very least, farm animals ready for market typically have to be transported off-farm for slaughter.
Transport can be a very stressful time for animals, causing pain, suffering, and distress. With over 770 million animals transported each year in Canada, it is very important to recognize the causes of animal suffering during transport and ways to prevent it.
What causes pain, suffering and distress during transport?
- Rough handling resulting from untrained people trying to speed up the loading or unloading process
- Overcrowding of animals on the vehicle, resulting in further injuries, fighting behaviours and sometimes even suffocation
- Transport in adverse weather conditions, with no temperature control in the transport vehicle – sometimes animals’ bodies freeze or overheat to the point of death
- Long periods of time with no food, water, comfortable bedding, or rest – some animals are transported for so long that they become dehydrated and weak. See below for allowed maximum transport times without feed, safe water and rest (set by the Canadian government under the Health of Animals Regulations):
- Compromised animals: 12 hours
- Broiler chickens, spent laying hens and rabbits: 24 hours (safe water), 28 hours (feed and rest)
- Horses and pigs: 28 hours
- All other animals: 36 hours
Livestock auctions are a common occurrence in the animal agriculture industry. This is where producers will bring their animals to be bought and sold for profit, including sold for slaughter.
Auctions are a stressful place for animals for many reasons:
- Animals can be transported for long hours without food and water, only to arrive at a noisy and unfamiliar place. Sometimes, they do not receive food or water during their entire time at an auction.
- Many animals being advertised for sale have untreated diseases and injuries.
- When animals are stressed, they can go into fight, flight or freeze mode. Sometimes animal handlers at auctions use rough methods like electric prods to move an animal that is stressed.
The BC SPCA advocates for only humane methods to be used for the killing of any animal. All farm animals must be stunned prior to slaughter so that they are fully unconscious at the time of death. Despite this, the time leading up to slaughter and the process of slaughtering can lead to suffering in animals.
Some of the risks to the animals’ well-being at this time include:
- Suffering relating to transportation to the slaughter facility
- Stress before being killed due to being grouped with unfamiliar animals
- Injury, stress, and fear from being handled roughly, sometimes resulting in broken limbs
- Severe pain and distress if the animal is inadequately stunned (is awake or alert while killed)
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