Every week, more than a billion live animals are transported worldwide over long distances, through blazing heat and freezing cold, often without food, water, or veterinary care – as if they were nothing more than freight. Their gruelling journeys frequently end at a slaughterhouse, where they face a terrifying death. Others end up on pet shop shelves or in laboratory cages.
On August 29, caring people around the world will participate in a global day of action against all forms of live-animal transport. The day will mark the 20th anniversary of the world’s worst live-export disaster, when more than 67,000 sheep burned to death or drowned as the ship carrying them across the Indian Ocean burst into flames and sank.
The best way to help animals is never to buy them or their body parts for any reason, but we can also help reduce their suffering by taking action now to improve their transport conditions. Here are eight actions you can take:
1. Hold a vigil or remembrance service for chickens transported for food, and invite the media to attend. Let people know that chickens often die during transport to slaughter. They are rounded up by workers who grab them by the legs and sling them into crates for transport, often breaking their fragile bones. They are often deprived of food and water, and the journey to the slaughterhouse may be long, through all weather conditions. and invite the media to attend.
2. Meet with a member of parliament to discuss the way cows and buffaloes are transported for slaughter in India. They are crammed onto trucks in such large numbers that their bones often break and they suffocate or die in other ways. Those who are too lame to walk when they reach the slaughterhouse are often left to die slowly or dragged painfully to the slaughter floor.
3. Tell Air India officials that you won’t fly with the airline until it stops shipping live animals to laboratories. Air India continues to ship animals to laboratories to be tormented in experiments, even though major airlines around the world refuse to do so. In these experiments, animals may be cut up, poisoned, killed, or abused in other ways.
4. Urge Australia to end cruel live sheep exports. Australia sends more than 2 million live sheep to the Middle East every year – a gruelling trip across the Indian Ocean in the searing heat, sometimes taking weeks. More than 200 million animals have been crammed onto filthy cargo ships over the last 30 years, and more than 2.5 million of them have been trampled to death or have died of dehydration, starvation, or disease.
5. Never patronise pet shops. Puppies are torn from their mothers, packed into crates, and shipped, often without adequate food, water, ventilation, or shelter. Every rupee spent at a pet shop supports this abuse, so buy your animal-care supplies only at stores that don’t sell animals or online, and always adopt from animal shelters.
6. Refuse to attend circuses that use animals. Animals who are forced to travel and perform with circuses lead miserable lives. When animals in circuses are not performing, they’re forced to spend most of their lives inside cramped, barren cages or chained. Help end this abuse by attending only animal-free circuses.
7. Don’t go to zoos. Zoos routinely transfer animals among facilities, which is a stressful and terrifying ordeal that often kills them. Transporting giraffes and zebras is especially risky because they’re skittish by nature and try to flee when frightened. Giraffes’ bodies are so fragile that they routinely injure themselves – sometimes fatally – by running into the sides of transport cages in panic. This happens so often that the primary transporter of giraffes for zoos in the US factors the cost of a government fine for accidents into its shipping price.
8. Spread this message far and wide to your family, friends, and colleagues.
There’s no better way to do this than by sharing the Animals Are Not Freight Day of Global Action on social media. Knowledge is power – let your friends, neighbours, and family members know about this campaign so that we can end the extreme crowding, exhaustion, dehydration, pain, and stress endured by animals in live transport.
Animals who suffer during transport need compassionate people to speak up for them – and your voice can make a difference. For example, thanks in part to individuals who voiced their concern, almost every major airline in the world now prohibits the transportation of primates to laboratories. Let’s make a difference by speaking out against cruelty in the transportation of all animals!