AVMA House votes to pass new policy on animal transport

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The new policy was passed in support of humane animal transport amid an increase in animal transportation distance

Photo: S. Leitenberger/Adobe Stock

Photo: S. Leitenberger/Adobe Stock

In conjunction with their approval of revisions to the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) delegates also passed a policy on the humane transportation of animals.1

The new policy will supplant the current AVMA “Transport, Sale Yard Practices, and Humane Slaughter of Hoofstock and Poultry” document, which consists of 11 bullet points detailing measures to be followed for the wellbeing, proper handling, and humane transport and slaughter of hoofstock and poultry, as well as for limiting disease transmission.2

The following is the new “Transport of Animals” policy1:

The AVMA supports the humane transport of animals. It is recommended that best practices be evidence-based and address the following at a minimum:

  • Animals must be evaluated and determined to be fit for transportation.
  • Handling methods, equipment, facilities, and transport vehicles must provide for the safety of animals and personnel, minimize stress and injury, and limit the transmission of disease.
  • The type of transport, transit time, age, and species of the animals being transported, climatic concerns, and the goal of optimizing animal welfare should be considered together to determine routes, rest stops, and whether the animals should be unloaded, fed, and watered.

“We support guidance that has been developed in collaboration with experienced veterinarians, animal ethologists, animal welfare scientists, and species-specific transport experts. The AVMA also supports research focused on improving transport practices that consider the physical and affective states of animals,” read a statement by the AVMA.1

According to a news release by the AVMA, the AVMA Welfare Committee suggested the revision to the policy, with the AVMA House Advisory Committee (HAC) supporting the resolution endorsed by the Board of Directors (BOD).3

The resolution’s background indicated that the AVMA House requested the committee to evaluate all AVMA policies related to animal transportation, as well as explore the creation of a comprehensive policy, and produce resource documents that offered species-specific and situation-specific information, according to the AVMA.3

Inhumane animal transport and law violations

A 2022 Guardian investigation revealed that tens of millions of farm animals in the United States die before they are slaughtered, with approximately 20 million chickens, 330,000 pigs, and 166,000 cattle dying on arrival at abattoirs or soon after each year.4 According to the report, there is an increased number of deaths that is likely attributed to the extended distances animals are frequently being forced to travel and the rising frequency of transportation. “The main causes [of death] were likely to be heat stress, especially during the summer months, and freezing temperatures and trauma,” wrote the Guardian.4

The “Twenty-Eight Hour Law,” instituted in 1873, repealed and reenacted in 1906 and once again 1994, requires that livestock be offloaded for at least 5 consecutive hours to eat, drink water, and rest if they are being transported for more than 28 consecutive hours.5 Yet, there have been reports of animals being transported for up to 2 days nonstop with no water, food, or rest.4

Still, violations of the law are not rare occurrences. Dena Jones, director at Animal Welfare Institute and animal advocate said violations “perhaps affect[ed] 10% of more of farm animals transported between states,” according to a report.4

References

  1. Nolen RS. House passes updated ethics document, new transport policy. News release. American Veterinary Medical Association. June 23, 2024. Accessed June 26, 2024. https://www.avma.org/news/house-passes-updated-ethics-document-new-transport-policy?utm_source=delivra&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=todays-headlines-news
  2. Transport, sale yard practices, and humane slaughter of hoofstock and poultry. American Veterinary Medical Association. Accessed June 26, 2024. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/avma-policies/transport-sale-yard-practices-and-humane-slaughter-hoofstock-and-poultry
  3. Delegates to vote on policies on humane transport, veterinary ethics. News release. American Veterinary Medical Association. June 14, 2024. Accessed June 26, 2024. https://www.avma.org/news/delegates-vote-policies-humane-transport-veterinary-ethics#:~:text=“The%20AVMA%20supports%20the%20humane,to%20be%20fit%20for%20transportation.
  4. Kevany S. More than 20 million farm animals die on way to abattoir in US every year. The Guardian. June 15, 2022. Accessed June 26, 2024. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/15/more-than-20-million-farm-animals-die-on-way-to-abattoir-in-us-every-year
  5. Twenty-Eight Hour Law. United States Department of Agriculture. Accessed June 27, 2024. https://www.nal.usda.gov/animal-health-and-welfare/twenty-eight-hour-law
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