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Global live animal transport trade

It is widely accepted that animals should be fattened and slaughtered as near as possible to home. We believe that the transport of live animals should be replaced by a trade in meat.

Live animals, including calves, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses are routinely transported by road, rail, sea or air across continents.

Long distance transport causes enormous suffering

  • Overcrowding – Animals are crammed into vehicles. Many are injured or trampled to death
  • Exhaustion and dehydration – They can be in transit for days, suffering extremes of temperature and often without sufficient food, water or rest. Many die as a result
  • Pain and stress – Animals are sentient beings and feel pain and stress just like we do

The greater the distance, the greater the suffering


In Europe alone, around six million farm animals are transported across many countries with some journeys taking three days or more.


Australia exports around four million live sheep every year, mostly to the Middle East every year. They may have travelled up to 50 hours by road to get to the sea port. This is followed by a journey of up to three weeks by sea and a further journey by road at the other end. Shockingly, around 40,000 sheep die every year before they reach their destination. Despite the implementation of an export supply chain assurance scheme by the Australian government, investigations by animal welfare groups have documented terrible suffering at slaughter after export.

Canada and the US

Canada transports farm animals thousands of miles within its borders as well as to the US. They experience exceptionally harsh conditions as the climate changes from freezing cold to scorching sun. The trucks used are often unheated with no air conditioning.


In India cattle are transported across the continent as there are only two states where the slaughter of cows is legal. Animals are also often brutally treated and overcrowded during transport, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities.

South America

Every year, thousands of animals are exported from South America to be reared for beef production in Asia and Africa. These journeys can often involve the animals spending weeks at sea and result in the animals being slaughtered in inhumane conditions. When welfare problems do occur, they can often be disastrous.

Middle East

The Middle East is one of the world’s biggest importers of live animals, with animals coming from as far afield as Eastern Europe, South America and Australia. On arrival, these animals are often subject to poor welfare and inhumane slaughter.

When things go wrong

In addition to routine suffering, things often go wrong with disastrous consequences for the animals.

In 2003 the Corm Express carried 58,000 sheep from Australia to Saudi Arabia but was not allowed to unload. The sheep remained on board for three months in appalling and deteriorating conditions. Over 5,000 died.

Fire, delays or sinking of livestock ships result in the suffering and death of large numbers of animals. In December 2009 more than 17,000 cattle and 10,500 sheep were reported drowned when the Danny F II ship transporting them from Uruguay to Syria capsized in a storm off the coast of Tripoli, with the loss of the Captain and several crew.  In March 2010 263 of the several thousand cattle on the Ocean Shearer died, possibly due to the ship being delayed en route from Australia to Egypt.

Compassion in World Farming believes that no animal should travel more than 8 hours to its final destination.

Spread of disease

The spread of diseases across the globe – such as bluetongue virus, foot and mouth disease, avian influenza and swine fever – can be directly attributable to the live transportation of farm animals.

Moving livestock long distances to markets and slaughter houses can spread infectious diseases between animals around a country. As animals are transported from country to country – with few medical checks – diseases can spread over great distances at an alarming rate.

In late 2007, a number of cattle imported from continental Europe were discovered to be infected with bluetongue virus on arrival in the UK. They were only tested on arrival, not before they began their journeys.

The 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth disease demonstrated the devastating effect that live transportation can have on the spread of disease.

The containment of disease becomes impossible whilst long distance transport continues.

End of the road

The suffering often does not end when the journey is over. In many countries animals are brutally loaded, unloaded and moved using electric goads, sticks, ropes, chains and sharp objects. Standards of slaughter vary enormously too. Some animals are inadequately stunned or not stunned at all before slaughter.

Take action

Find out how you can help end the long distance transport of live animals.