Editor’s Comment: Just Say “No” to Downer Livestock

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One thing I’ve noticed as an observer of the trucking industry over the past few years is that there are an awful lot of associations in this business. There are associations representing truckers of every type of commodity available. There are associations representing shippers. There are associations representing producers and manufacturers. Hell, there is even an association for truck writers!

But one segment of the Western Canadian trucking industry that really needs strong representation right now is the livestock hauling sector.

If you’re in the business of hauling livestock, there’s one association you should certainly know about – and that’s Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC). Although it’s a provincial organization, much of the association’s work transcends provincial boundaries.

It is a group that’s focused on the humane treatment of animals – on the farm and on the truck.

One of the many worthwhile projects AFAC has on the go is production of a booklet that clearly defines what animals are fit for transport and which ones should not be loaded. This has always been a contentious issue for livestock truckers who always seem to find themselves caught in the middle when a producer insists on shipping an unfit animal.

Thanks to this booklet (which every cattle trucker will hopefully carry with him at all times), there should be no more debates at the loading pen.

It will eliminate the gray area and allow the trucker and producer to determine whether or not the animal is fit for transport. It’ll be the first time there has been a single definitive resource for both truckers and producers.

But the key is that truckers must all adhere to what is in the book. If just one trucking company decides to disregard the new guidelines and agrees to ship downer animals, a lot of hard work by AFAC will have been for naught.

Trucking companies that accept downer animals must be singled out and punished for their actions – just as producers who insist on shipping them should be.

AFAC has a toll-free Animal Care Alert Line (800-506-2273) truckers can call if they witness farm animals being treated inhumanely.

I can assure you that AFAC responds immediately to calls involving cruelty to animals – and they are probably far more effective at dealing with these cases than the local police, animal rights groups or mainstream media. AFAC should be your first resource.

The ramifications of shipping animals that are unfit for transport are severe. Just ask Marwyn Peaster, the Alberta farmer who shipped Canada’s infamous Mad Cow last May.

It’s worth noting that technically Peaster didn’t do anything illegal when he loaded that cow on the truck – but that alone is a testament to the need of a clearer set of guidelines.

If that’s not enough to make you think twice about loading a downer, consider this. There are reports of a German filmmaker who has been filming the loading and transporting of animals throughout Canada. She has reportedly followed trucks as far south as California and as far east as Ontario.

She’s not interested in capturing footage of animals that have been humanely loaded and transported. Based on footage obtained by AFAC, she’s more interested in the footage of the few animals that shouldn’t have been loaded, or weren’t provided with proper food and water during the trip.

The intention of her documentary is clear – make sure your truck doesn’t play a starring role.

– James Menzies can be reached by phone at 403-275-3160 or by e-mail at jamesmenzies@shaw.ca.

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Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.

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