Live export

Live export

Over a billion living farm animals around the world are exported to different countries or states every week, travelling hundreds of miles from farms to slaughterhouses, a practice referred to as "live export."Dugan, Emily. [ "Exposed: The long, cruel road to the slaughterhouse"] , "The Independent", February 13, 2008.]

Animal charities say that thousands of animals die "en route" from disease, heat exhaustion, thirst, suffocation, and crush injuries. The "National Hog Farmer" reports that 420,000 pigs are crippled and 170,000 die each year in the U.S. on the way to the slaughterhouse. [Vansickle, J. "Quality Assurance Program Launched," "National Hog Farmer", February 15, 2002, cited in Williams, Erin E. and DeMello, Margo. "Why Animals Matter". Prometheus Books, 2007, p. 49.] __TOC__

European Union legislation

The rules for animals being transported within the European Union require rest periods, although the BBC reports that these are "routinely ignored." The rules say that unweaned animals (still drinking their mothers' milk) are allowed to travel for nine hours before being given one hour's rest; pigs for 24 hours, with access to water, before a break; horses for 24 hours with access to water every eight hours; while cattle, sheep and goats may travel for 14 hours before being given one hour's rest and water. [ "Commission welcomes Council’s agreement on stricter welfare rules for transport of animals"] , European Commission press release, November 22, 2004, accessed March 18, 2008.]

The EU introduced new legislation in 2004 intended to improve conditions, to come into force in 2007. Newborn animals are not allowed to be transported until their navels have healed. Piglets under three weeks, lambs under one week, calves under 10 days, and horses under four months, may travel up to 100 km. Dogs and cats under eight weeks may be transported only with their mothers. Females may be transported one week after birth, and may not be transported just before birth.

The legislation also covers better training for drivers, outlaws striking or kicking the animals, and requires better loading and unloading facilities.

United Kingdom

Between 15 July 2002 and January 2004, around 200,000 lambs and sheep were exported for slaughter or further fattening abroad, mainly to France and Italy. []


Australia is the world’s largest exporter of sheep and cattle. According to a report by Meat and Livestock Australia, 4.2 million sheep and 572,799 cattle were exported to markets in Asia, the Middle East and other countries in 2005. [] Most of the livestock are for meat but there is also an active trade in breeding stock, including dairy cattle.

The major market for Australian cattle is Indonesia, which takes over 60 percent of annual exports. Other key markets include Israel, Malaysia, Japan, Mexico and China. [] The major markets for Australian sheep are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. [] Other key markets are Bahrain, the UAE, Oman and Qatar. Australia’s main market competitors are from China, South America and North Africa.

New Zealand

On October 29, 2007, New Zealand banned live agricultural exports following a report about animal welfare and the treatment of livestock during shipping. New Zealand has not exported live animals to the Middle East for several years but has continued live exports to China, Mexico and South America. A legislative review of this decision is expected, but until then live exports have stopped. []

"Handle with Care" coalition

A group of ten animal charities, including the RSPCA, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and Compassion in World Farming, formed the "Handle with Care" coalition in 2007 to lobby for change in the way animals are transported, arguing that live transport is both cruel and unnecessary. [ [ "Handle with Care website] , accessed March 17, 2008.]

A joint undercover investigation, during which coalition members followed and filmed lorries and ships transporting live animals, shows that animals are being driven across Europe for up to 70 hours without breaks, in violation of EU legislation.

The coalition says that Australia sends more than four million live sheep every year to the Middle East, a journey lasting 32 days, during which three sheep share one square meter of space in the ship's hold, and that 100,000 cattle are sent by truck from Brazil to Lebanon each year, with a reported mortality rate of ten percent. [ "'Cruel' animal transport targeted"] , BBC News, February 12, 2008.] Until 2007, Canada was sending live pigs 4,500 miles to Hawaii, a journey lasting nine days with no rest period, so that the pigs could be sold there as "island-produced," but the Canadian government said it would end the transport after learning of the coalition's investigation into the practice. [ [ Pigs: Canada and U.S. to Hawaii] , Handle with Care, accessed March 17, 2008. See the coalition's [ video] about the pig transport on "YouTube".]


Further reading

*Appleby, M., Cussen, V., Garcés, Lambert, L.A., Turner, J. [ "Long Distance Transport and Welfare of Farm Animals"] , CABI Publishing, 2008.
* [ Live Export - Indefensible] - Animals Australia's investigation including videos of animals exported live to the Middle East
* [ Commonwealth of Australia Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: National Live Exports Mortality Summary 2005]
* [ Hassall & Associates Australia: Live Export Industry: Value, Outlook and Contribution to the Economy]
* [ Alliance Resource Economics: World Livestock Export Standards – A comparison of development processes, systems and outcomes achieved]
* [ Meat & Livestock Australia]
* [ LiveCorp]
* [ CIWF Long Distance Campaign website]
* [ People Against Live Exports (PALE)] - A non profit orgainisation trying to put an end to Live Exports

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