WATKINS GLEN, New York - August 2 - Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization, today released a research report addressing highway accidents in the United States involving farm animals. Farm Sanctuary has submitted this report with recommendations to more than 40 officials with government agencies, industry trade organizations and agribusiness companies, calling for a proper reporting structure and establishment of protocols to protect farm animals at risk during transport.
Of the ten billion animals slaughtered for food every year in the U.S., most, at some point in their lives, travel by truck, usually in-route to the slaughterhouse. Farm Sanctuary conducted a survey of media archives to locate information about farm animal transport accidents, in which a total of 233 accidents were identified for a recent six-year period. A significant percentage of the animals involved in these accidents died or were severely injured. Veterinarians and humane society officials were rarely called to the scene to help the injured animals.
Although the U.S. government does not monitor farm animal transport accidents and has done little to address the problem, governments of other countries have taken action on the issue. Canada's "Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals" includes specific information on responding to highway accidents involving farm animals. The U.S. animal agriculture industry has not, for the most part, developed any policies or procedures to deal with animal transport accidents.
"Thousands of animals are dying on U.S. highways and there are no protocols in place to handle these accidents," said Gene Bauston, president of Farm Sanctuary. "First responders are not equipped to handle the care of farm animals in accidents, and neither government nor agribusiness claims responsibility while animals and people remain at risk."
The 233 accidents included in Farm Sanctuary's report occurred in 44 states. States with the highest number of accidents in the survey include Kansas with 23 accidents, Texas and Pennsylvania with 14 each, and Missouri with 13. Virginia and California had 12 each. The states with the most accidents are not surprisingly, the states with a large slaughter industry. Agribusinesses listed repeatedly in connection with transport accidents include Perdue Farms (chickens), Cargill (pigs), Foster Farms (chickens and turkeys), and ConAgra (chickens). The company with the most accidents was Smithfield Foods, with 10 separate accidents involving pigs during the six-year period.
Recommendations to the U.S. government and industry include:
-- The U.S. government and animal agriculture industry should track animal transport accidents and their causes. Information about transport accidents should be made available to the public and used to help prevent future accidents and to improve the treatment of animals affected by these accidents.
-- The trucking and animal agriculture industries should design trailers with a reduced risk of rollover. Double-decker trailers should be eliminated. Drivers of animal transports should be educated about the prevention of tractor-trailer rollover. Federal and state government should enact limits on the duration of animal transport journeys and on animal stocking densities and require two drivers for lengthy journeys.
-- States and counties should develop accident protocols that include the provision of emergency veterinary treatment by government or private practitioners. All states should enact veterinary "Good Samaritan" laws.
-- The animal agriculture industry should develop accident protocols and emergency teams to respond to the scene of major transport accidents.
-- State and county governments should hold first responder training in animal rescue, care and handling.
Farm Sanctuary's report, "U.S. Highway Accidents Involving Farm Animals" can be ordered by phone at 607-583-2225 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The full report can also be accessed at http://www.farmsanctuary.org.