COK Investigation Exposes Suffering During Interstate Farm Animal Transport
While the abuses endured by animals on factory farms and inside slaughterhouses are gradually gaining the public’s attention, the treatment of millions of animals during transport—between farms, auctions, stockyards, and slaughterhouses—remains relatively concealed.
In July 2005, COK investigators traveled throughout the United States to document the conditions endured by farmed animals shipped across the country on trucks and trailers. Our investigators found that, in many cases, farmed animals are overcrowded onto vehicles and moved long distances—often exceeding 28 hours—without food, water to drink, rest, or adequate protection from the elements. As a result of such hardships, an untold number suffer in-transit injuries, illnesses, stress and even death.
The Twenty-Eight Hour Law: In 1873, the U.S. government passed the Twenty-Eight Hour Law to address the transport of animals across state lines. One of the few federal statues that applies to farmed animals, the Twenty-Eight Hour Law states that, with limited exceptions, animals cannot be transported via “rail carrier, express carrier, or common carrier” for more than 28 consecutive hours without being unloaded for five hours for “feeding, water, and rest.” At the time this law was written, the primary vehicle for movement of livestock was the rail car. In the early 1950s, however, trucks surpassed the use of rail cars and remain the dominant carrier in the industry today, comprising more than 95% of current farmed animal transport.
Enforcement History: Until recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency charged with enforcing this statute, has stood behind its decade-old policy of excluding the interstate truck transport of farmed animals. According to a USDA website that offers trucking guidance for animal exporters:
“Federal law requires that livestock in interstate commerce be in transit for no more than 28 hours without food, water, and rest. However, this law applies only to rail shipments.”
In October 2005, this policy was challenged by Compassion Over Killing, The Humane Society of the United States, Farm Sanctuary, and Animals’ Angels in a petition to the USDA. After reviewing this petition, the USDA announced in September 2006 that it will begin protecting farmed animals transported long distances on trucks.