When you go to a pet store, a zoo, a shelter, or a food store, it is easy to only focus on what’s in front of you without much, or any, consideration of how it actually got there.

Many people have been to a zoo or aquarium.  But did you ever wonder how a lion ended up in Buffalo, New York?  Or how a hammerhead shark got into a tank in Canada

What about something obvious; most people have been to a food store, right?  How did that salmon in your shopping cart get to the shelf that you picked it up from?

This all has to do with the complicated, detailed, and extensive network of logistics for transporting non-human animals.

I began thinking about today’s post after completing a quiz for my International Logistics class.  The quiz focused on different kinds of transportation infrastructures, such as that of railways, cargo ships, roadways, etc. and the history behind their development and modern evolution.

Then I went to the grocery store, and thought about how difficult it must be to manage perishable items’ (like meat and eggs) logistical network.  It lead me to start thinking about non-human animals and transportation in general, and I realized, “I never thought about what a difficult, complicated thing that must be to manage!”

It is one thing to consider managing global logistics for a company that sells books or cars.  There may be temperature and safe-handling requirements to make sure that the goods do not get warped or damaged along the journey, but the range of acceptable measures is much wider than that of living cargo.

But it is not a development that came about when things like zoos started appearing, or rescue organizations began to exist.  Living cargo has been a concern since people started crossing the ocean to immigrate, or moving from place to place on land because of new opportunities, etc.  Many people are more familiar with those types of logistics; you’ve flown on a plane, right? Or at least been driven from one spot to another?  But how is the management of transportation different for non-human animals?


First, lets talk about numbers to put the magnitude of this logistical ballet into perspective.  In the U.S. alone, 3 billion animals were slaughtered last year.  Nearly all of those had to be transported to the slaughterhouse.  In the U.S. ALONE.  Over 2 million pets and other non-human animals are transported by air every year in the U.S. alone as well.  About 62 million animals are transported every year throughout the countries of the European Union.  These are already huge numbers, and we’re not even talking about Asia yet!

Now, to complicate the issue even more, in the U.S. for example, imports and exports of non-human animals and non-human animal products are subject to regulations at the federal, state, and individual business level.  Many times air carriers have their own documentation and transportation regulations, besides those of the state they are transporting to/from, and besides the federal regulations and paperwork.  This doesn’t even include the importee’s requirements once the cargo gets to its destination.  The importee’s regulations and document requirements can also be entirely different!  Couple this with managing costs, welfare, demand, and time, and it becomes and extremely complex operation.


But, a rule of business: companies and people would not put all of this effort in if there was no demand and it did not generate profit.  Obviously, this international logistical system is worth analyzing if it is so extensive and profitable.

I like to start by looking at the facts that are available.  Organizations all over the world have extensive publications about the proper, humane, and efficient transportation of all species of non-human animals.  There are government publications that list specific laws and requirements for transportation and handling, based on the nation’s standards and capabilities.  There are also documents based on extensive and professional research put forth by organizations such as the Humane Society International, that are then available for reference by businesses, governments, shelters, zoos, etc.

This is an example of one of the Humane Society International’s Guidelines: http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/X6909E/x6909e00.htm#Content

Most of these documents are not solely about making the lives on the non-human animals comfortable; they are about the health and wellness of the human population and the environment.  (Another aspect that logistic mangers need to consider)  The effects of live non-human animal transport are far-reaching, and logistics managers have to be aware of the effects to prevent future problems for their business and community.

For example, the European Commission issued a Report on Animal Transport Regulation that shows: the animal welfare impact, impact of regulation on trade within the EU, socio-economic and regional implications, navigation systems implementations needed, and law enforcement.


The effect of this logistical network really is far-reaching and all-encompassing.  It can affect the health of an entire community with things like tainted meat.  It affects the environment extensively because cow manure is one of the biggest causes of increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere today.  Many times people and families depend on earning their living from farming, and when backups occur, their ways of living are at stake.  Non-human animal transport in ingrained into all different aspects of communities, from food to entertainment (zoos, etc.), to clothing… the list goes on.

So, where do logistics’ managers start to look for understandable guidelines?


The Canadian Legal Information Institute offers an easily accessible document that details Livestock Transportation Regulation for Alberta, Canada (for example).  This document is easy to read and navigate, which is beneficial for logistics managers to access and view without having to dredge through extensive legal documentation full of barely legible font size and legal terminology.



These documents linked above however do not even represent the tip of the iceberg.  As I mentioned, these documents apply to the people within those countries trying to export/import non-human animals; the logistics managers then have to deal with the other country’s specific regulations as well!  So, somebody exporting livestock from the U.S. to Canada has to manage the federal and state regulations, the individual trucking companies’ requirements, and Canada’s import requirements as well.  Keep in mind this is all under time (because all animals are perishable), money, health, and extensive container constraints!


These logistics managers definitely have their hands full; however if organizations like the Humane Society International and the Canadian Legal Information Institute can keep creating these easy to understand documents that can aid logistics managers, the process can become easier and streamlined.  This can lead to benefits for all parties: non-human animals will hopefully experience as little stress and discomfort as possible, humans will be able to meet the demand in a more sustainable fashion, and the environment will hopefully benefit from decreased emissions (in all forms).


Here are some related sites and research:


  • This link provides a list of all related documents for non-human animal handling and transport (nationally and internationally)


  • This link contains related links under the “I Want To…” heading that can help with thing like obtaining information about a port, finding approved establishments, finding area Veterinarian-in-Charges, etc.