New Rules Would Protect Farm Animals Transported By Sea in Hawaii

Animal Welfare Institute - February 19, 2020

Honolulu, HI—Following the recent deaths of 21 pregnant cows on a barge traveling from Oahu to Kauai, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) formally committed last week to adopting regulations to better protect farm animals on sea vessels traveling to, from, and between the Hawaiian Islands. The HDOA’s commitment comes on the heels of the state legislature introducing companion bills SB2715 and HB1898, which would have required the department to promulgate regulations for the care of animals shipped by sea.

The HDOA, working with local carriers Matson and Young Brothers, representatives from the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council, veterinarians, and other industry experts, plans to enact administrative rules within two years that include care and transport provisions mirroring federal animal export standards. The proposed regulations – slated to go into effect following a period of public comment and statewide hearings – would prevent noncompliant shippers from shipping their animals.

“The 21 cattle trapped on that barge deserved to be treated humanely,” said Erin Sutherland, farm animal welfare attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “This tragedy could have easily been prevented had Young Brothers abided by proper care, training, and handling requirements. We commend the Hawaii Department of Agriculture for moving to set care and transport standards for the thousands of farm animals – primarily cattle – who are shipped to the mainland and between islands each year.”

“I’m pleased that the Department of Agriculture made a commitment to updating their administrative rules to ensure better care of livestock who are transported on ships,” said state Sen. Mike Gabbard (D-Kapolei-Makakilo), who introduced the measure. “This is the right thing to do!”

Young Brothers, which transports animals between the islands, told Hawaii News Now that it takes its responsibility as a livestock carrier seriously, and works with the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council to develop protocols for the shipment of animals. Matson, which transports animals between the mainland and Hawaii, told AWI representatives that it complies with federal regulations governing the export of animals. Nevertheless, AWI encourages both shippers to improve the care of animals in transit while the HDOA works to develop new regulations.

Animals shipped from Hawaii to the mainland face journeys of more than 2,000 miles, and they deserve higher standards of care. Even animals involved in shorter trips often endure needless suffering. The HDOA’s new rules aim to ensure that these animals do not suffer or die from preventable causes.