There's an 'Animal Welfare Disaster' You Don't Know About

Vox takes a look at the export of live animals, particularly by sea
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2023 1:10 PM CST
There's an 'Animal Welfare Disaster' You Haven't Heard Of
Stock photo of sheep on a large transport ship.   (Getty Images / agafapaperiapunta)

It's an "animal welfare disaster" that's gone largely "unnoticed by the public," writes Sophie Kevany in a piece for Vox that details the issue at length: animals exported alive to other countries. That may sound relatively innocuous, but the reality of these transfers, particularly those that take the shape of "long, perilous, and often fatal journeys by ship," are anything but. Such exports are far more common in the EU than North America, and one recent tragedy put the practice on the radar of animal advocates there. In 2019, the Queen Hind capsized in the Black Sea while en route to Saudi Arabia from Romania; nearly all of the 14,000 sheep aboard drowned. Those 14,000 are just a few of the roughly 2 billion land animals raised for food that are exported each year, per UN data.

Sometimes they're exported for slaughter; in other cases, countries have developed a specialty for breeding baby animals (Kevany cites the example of Denmark's piglet export trade). Exports by land are no picnic, but Kevany argues "sea transport is even worse," as these journeys typically take longer and involve the risk of bad weather or delays, "which strain limited feed supplies and increase the buildup of excrement, stress, and injury." A 2020 capsizing of a ship headed from New Zealand to China killed about 6,000 cows and 41 people; New Zealand subsequently banned live exports by sea. Welfare concerns aside, Kevany notes the practice raises health concerns for humans: As one zoonotic disease research fellow at Harvard Law puts it, "Every time you transport animals, you create opportunities for disease spread." (Read the full story.)

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