The Pirates of Animal Transport

If you’re either a vet or a vet student in Norway, odds are that you’re a member of the Norwegian Veterinary Association. As a part of the membership, you are sent a monthly academic journal on what the latest news are in the Norwegian veterinary sphere. Usually, when I receive it, I sit down with a cup of tea, read the leader, and see how much I can decipher from the different case reports. For instance, last month’s Journal included an article on feline panleukopenia virus, which is a “cat plague” caused by feline parvovirus. In the article, they had included images of the cat’s colon, with dilated crypts where there was a loss of epithelium tissue. Although I was saddened to read that the cat had passed away from the disease, I did find it neat that I’m starting to understand why this caused diarrhea, since I had just read about water absorption in the large intestines a few days prior.

Today, however, I didn’t feel that satisfaction. Rather, I felt concerned and disappointed to read about the many difficulties we’re having in Europe regarding animal transport. In an article written by an Austrian vet called Alexander Rabitsch, he states that while there is concrete legislation concerning animal welfare during long haul transport, these are often not satisfactorily complied with.

He goes on to list the most common violations, including crush injuries, poor ventilation, stuffed vehicles, not enough water sources, and overheating, both leading to dehydration. He even mentions that weak, sick and even hurt animals are being transported, when they are obviously not fit for travel.

Reading this, and seeing the images of the animals in distress just broke my heart. It is vital that we petition for our governments and legislators to adhere to animal protection laws, and that they are not “more guidelines than actual rules”, to borrow the verbiage from Pirates of the Caribbean. If we have the same attitude to our animal welfare laws as Captain Barbossa has to the Pirate Code, there’s clearly room for improvement.

By the end of this degree, I hope to not only be able to understand all the technical terms in academic journals, but to look back at the journal I read today and have this neglect of the animal protection laws be a thing of the past.