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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Op-Ed by Sandra Kyle

On Monday the 35-year old driver transporting cattle to slaughter was airlifted to Whanganui hospital after he lost control of his truck.   The man was subsequently discharged, but many of the cows aboard the truck had to be euthanised.  The state of their bruised, bleeding and broken bodies mean they will be unfit for human consumption, and they will probably be processed for by-products such as blood ‘n’ bone fertiliser.  

There have been a number of similar crashes causing injury and death to livestock in the last few years.   Still fresh in my memory is the April 2020 accident in the Karangahake Gorge, where animals drowned or were injured, leading them to be put down.  In 2018, 19 cattle died when a truck crashed on a Waikato highway, and in 2017 more animals needed to be euthanised after a truck rolled.  Other animals who survived that crash fled the scene and were wandering loose, endangering both themselves and the public.  

I was in the logjam created by the truck blocking the road near Waitotara on Monday.  Fortunately, I couldn’t see the carnage ahead of me.  The cows lying on the road or trapped in the truck must have been suffering terribly, and I commend the decision to put them out of their misery.  But it should never have happened in the first place.  These animals were loaded against their will to be transported in dangerous and uncomfortable conditions to their own deaths. Cows, with personalities and attachments similar to our own, would never have consented to take this journey of no return, which in this case ended so horribly for them.

Transport of livestock is undoubtedly the most stressful and injurious stage in the chain of operations between farm and slaughterhouse.   Hauling animals to slaughter means that animals can languish for hours inside crowded trucks.  They stand in their own slippery excrement, as they are frightened, and diarrhoea is common.   The metal vehicles transporting them can get very hot in the summer.  I have videoed over-heated cows panting in parked-up trucks, and sheep with thick coats packed tightly together on hot days.  The animals also suffer from the cold and wet in Winter.

Pigs are particularly aware and intelligent animals.  Such is the imbalance of power between us and the animals we use for food that pigs know that they are helpless, and that leads them to panic and fight amongst themselves.  The Industry knows the financial impact of stress on production animals, and tries to minimise it.  Stress can lead to DFD beef (as a result of an animal’s depleted muscle glycogen reserves prior to slaughter) and PSE pork (the muscle is soft in texture and lacks the ability to hold water).  Bruised flesh also cannot be used for human consumption, equating to money lost.  Other injuries animals incur being transported are trampling,  when they go down on slippery floors, and even suffocation if they are caught underneath.  Horns can also create injuries.  Add to that noxious fumes, speed and noise, as well as hunger and thirst, and you have very stressed animals being transported on our New Zealand roads.  

Statistically, most stock truck crashes involve cows.  In every important way cows are similar to ourselves.  They want to live.  They form attachments to their families and friends.  The mother/calf bond is strong, which makes their separation in the dairy industry particularly cruel.

Why in 2021 do we still feel the need to be involved in the rearing of sentient beings for our food, putting them in harm’s way and causing them stress and suffering, when there are so many healthier, kinder, and more sustainable alternatives?   If you don’t like the idea of living beings lying mangled and in agony on the road, then you have the choice to choose a kinder, healthier, more sustainable vegan diet.

Sandra Kyle is a Whanganui-based music teacher and animal activist.