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“Cowtainers” exposed: Thousands of calves shipped to mainland from Hawai’i in grueling week-long journey

Press Release Section Icon 5/20/2024

As revealed in The New York Times  this morning, Compassion in World Farming is exposing the cruel export of live cattle from Hawai’i to the U.S. mainland in so-called “cowtainers.”  

In a letter sent today, the world’s oldest farmed animal welfare organization is calling on Gov. Green to end the practice of sending tens of thousands of young calves to West Coast ports on journeys that typically last around five days or more.  

As many as 80 newly weaned calves are crammed into 40-foot cowtainers with as little as two inches between their heads and the ceilings. The calves face rough seas in winter and high temperatures in summer. Qualified veterinary care is not compulsory on these long-haul journeys and decisions related to the disposal of dead bodies are left to the ship’s captain, according to guidelines produced by the Hawai’i Cattlemen’s Council.

Record-keeping is minimal to non-existent; the only known study of conditions inside cowtainers documented those calves lost around 7% of their weight through tissue loss. During this study of 48 cattle, two showed signs of pneumonia and one of the calves died. 

“Countries around the world—including New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia—are waking up to the misery inflicted on farmed animals during grueling, long-haul journeys and banning the cruel live export trade,” says Compassion in World Farming’s U.S. Director, Ben Williamson. “We are calling on Governor Green to invest in Hawai’i’s grass-fed, local beef market instead of shipping tens of thousands of young calves in metal boxes to be fattened and finished in feedlots on the mainland.” 

Despite exporting 95% of the calves born and sold for consumption in Hawai’i, the state currently imports around 90% of the beef it consumes, highlighting the wastefulness of the trade in addition to the cruelty. Cattle is Hawai’i’s second most valuable agricultural commodity. Three times as many cattle are shipped from Hawai’i to the U.S. mainland than are exported by the U.S. to the sum of all other countries, excluding Canada and Mexico. 

For more information, please visit: https://www.ciwf.com/public-policy/live-exports/ 


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