Drivers’ Knowledge Of Cows’ Fitness For Transport
Retired dairy cows are particularly susceptible to being stressed during transport. In the E.U., it is illegal to transport animals that aren’t fit enough to handle the journey. But, the definitions around suitability for transport are vague. And an assessment of an animal’s fitness itself can be highly subjective.
The law holds truck drivers partly responsible for assessing animals’ suitability for transport. But it’s unclear how well equipped they are for the task. This article, published in Research in Veterinary Science, outlines the results of a survey that truck drivers completed. It was about their knowledge of and experience in assessing dairy cows’ fitness for transport. It is among the first of such studies focusing on drivers who transport farmed animals to slaughter.
The researchers surveyed 66 Danish truck drivers while they were waiting at slaughterhouses. The results showed that 94% stated they knew the rules regarding fitness for transport well. But, only half (52%) could answer questions correctly about specific examples of legislation. This suggests that their perceptions did not match reality. About a third (35%) also said that they had “frequent” doubts when assessing the fitness for transport of dairy cows.
The majority (59%) of the drivers said that they rely on knowledge obtained during mandatory certification to assess animals’ suitability for transport. Many also acquired their knowledge from peers and from veterinarians who inspect the cows. Time pressures or physical conditions (e.g., light and space) didn’t seem to impact drivers’ decision-making abilities. Most (88%) agreed that they had enough light and space to make proper assessments. And 85% felt that they always had enough time to evaluate the fitness for transport of dairy cows before transporting them to slaughter.
The authors recommend additional training in animal welfare assessment for such drivers. And they recommend that non-peers deliver this training. Such individuals may be less prone to moral values, ideologies, and prejudices than the drivers’ immediate peers.
For advocates, this study highlights the importance of ensuring that all custodians of animals are appropriately trained for their responsibilities. It also demonstrates why animal welfare legislation should be complemented by a robust auditing process.
[Contributed by Katherine van Ekert]