In the past month two accidents involving livestock trucks have snarled Atlanta-area traffic and killed more than a dozen cattle.
But it’s hard to say how common incidents like those are, because there’s not great data on how often they happen.
At any given time, Georgia has about 1 million beef cattle. That’s in addition to the state’s dairy cows.
About half of those beef cattle are transported within their first year of life to facilities like feedlots and slaughterhouse outside the state, mainly in the Midwest.
“When you talk about how large our country is and where the finishing areas of the country are kind of centralized, we have to move cattle from pretty much all the coast inland,” said Will Bentley with the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association.
He said cattle travel by land, sea, and, yes, even air, but most commonly they’re transported over the road in trailers.
And when it comes to accidents, Bently said they’re rare. Still, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which tracks truck accidents, doesn’t specify which involve farm animals.
That’s raised concern with animal rights group Farm Sanctuary. It tried to corral those numbers in a 2006 report but acknowledged its difficulty in doing so.
The group believes that data should be tracked and that more could be done to protect animals in transport.
“The suffering of these animals [in the beef industry] is largely hidden in factory farms and slaughterhouses,” said Farm Sanctuary President Gene Baur. “And all too frequent and deadly transport accidents are just another component of a broken food system.”