30 - May - 2011

A Spanish study has analyzed traffic accidents involving cattle being transported for human consumption in the country for the first time. Despite the “relatively” low mortality rate, animals suffer high-risk situations that cause pain and stress. The scientists say that specific protocols for action are needed with regard to these accidents, and to prepare the emergency services to deal with them.

Most of the 86 lorry accidents identified from 2000 to 2009 in Spain involved the transportation of pigs (57%), followed by cattle (30%), chickens (8%), and sheep (5%). Despite the scale of the incidents, the mortality rate among the animals was 22% for the pigs and 12% for cows, which are “relatively low” figures.

“Animals have not evolved to be programmed to cope with a road accident, meaning they suffer stress, anxiety, fear, pain and uncertainty, which can endanger other animals and people,” explains Genaro Miranda de la Lama, researcher at the Department of Animal Production and Food Science at the University of Zaragoza, in his study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

Pigs are one of the most-transported animals due to the heavy consumption demand for pork products in Spain and Europe, and this means they are the most exposed to traffic accidents, in which 6% of the drivers lose their lives.

The main cause of the accidents seems to be driver tiredness as a result of their long working days, poorly-devised routes, and highly-demanding jobs. With pigs, transport is in general handled by integrated companies that have a high level of logistical development, but which are under constant pressure due to the enormous commercial competition, which often affects drivers’ conduct.

In order to prevent accidents, the researchers explain that rest times and driver relief should be better respected, and routes better planned. The development of specific training programs for hauliers and the emergency services staff attending these accidents is “very necessary.”

Learning about how to handle animals and their behavior and reactions in situations of pain and suffering would also minimize the consequences for animal welfare and human safety.

The story was reprinted (with editorial adaptations) from ScienceDaily.Photo by Genaro Miranda de la Lama