The Live Animal Trade In The U.S.: A Review
For the past several years The Humane Party, and their “Economic Transition Team,” have been working to gather together statistics that give a comprehensive picture of different animal industries in the U.S., with the hope that such information can help end those same industries. On Faunalytics, we’ve covered several of those studies and even had a member of the team give an overview of their work in this blog.
In their most recent report, the Humane Party’s Economic Transition Team looked at the live animal trade in the U.S., which, for the first time, brings together a vast range of disparate data on an industry that can be hard to pin down. The report looks at a broad range of aspects of this $3.5 billion industry, highlighting the different species that are traded, how many are traded, the countries of origin and destination, and transportation times and related animal welfare effects. As with previous Humane Party reports, it is comprehensive and thorough.
What the team found is that the U.S. is a major player in live animal trade, with nearly 120 million animals traded in 2016. This is a staggering number, and even more so when you consider that the U.S. exports many of the same animals it imports, completely unnecessarily. When we dig into the actual values, the U.S. is the number seven exporter of animals and the number one importer.
Of the more than 22 million animals imported the team found that about 18,750,242 (71.3%) of them were chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese; 5,668,734 (21.6%) were pigs, and 1,708,482 (6.5%) were cows and calves. In much smaller numbers, the U.S. also imports primates, buffaloes, horses, sheep, goats, rabbits and bees.
Of the nearly 93 million animals exported, the team found that 82,402,903 (88.8%) were chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese), many of whom were baby chicks, and, in a strange anomaly, about 10 million (10.8%) were turtles, mostly red-eared sliders, but also soft-shell and snapping turtles. This speaks to the role that exotic animals play in the overall picture.
A big player in the U.S. context is Canada, from which 95.6% of animals are imported into the country. Why does this matter? To take one example, the U.S. has certain time limits for which animals can be transported without food, water, or rest. For the U.S., the limits are 28hrs by land or 36hrs by sea. Meanwhile Canada allows 36 hours for pigs, horses and chickens, 48 hours for goats, sheep, cows, and buffaloes, and 72 hours for baby chicks of all species.
“Without a doubt, this is an egregious example of animal exploitation in the United States,” says the Humane Party. Considering the scale described above, this may even be an understatement. For animal advocates, never before has this been as relevant as it is now. With campaigns against live animal trade picking up steam worldwide, and with the U.S. being the focal point that it is, it’s important for advocates in the U.S. to do what they can to stay informed about what’s happening at home, and understand how they can contribute to this larger shift.