HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - State Agriculture Department officials said 21 cattle died while they were being transported on a Young Brothers barge bound for Kauai last month.
Critics expressed outrage about the way the shipping company handled the livestock.
“This is an inexcusable failure in the process on the dock," said environmental activist Carroll Cox.
“Yes, they are destined for the slaughterhouse but they should not be subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment.”
According to inspection reports filed by the Agriculture Department, the dead animals were part of a shipment of 53 heifers that were being transported from Idaho to Kauai by Hawaii Meats on Nov. 19.
The reports indicate that Agriculture Department’s veterinarians inspected the animals at their Halawa facility on Nov. 16 for parasites and diseases such as tuberculosis.
The reports indicated that the animals were in good health at the time.
Jason Moniz, veterinarian program manager for the Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Control Branch, said he was told that when cattle were loaded into cargo containers that were stacked too closely together.
“What was reported to us is that the assumption (by the barge crews) was that there were no livestock in the containers," he said.
"They were loaded and stacked close together and they had inadequate ventilation.”
But Young Brothers said it’s still investigating how the animals died.
Over the past 10 years, the company has transported over 4,700 shipments of livestock. It said it had only one previous death, and that was during stormy conditions.
“We at Young Brothers take seriously our responsibility to safely transport our customers’ cargo – especially the livestock that we carry," said Chris Martin, director of terminal operations for Young Brothers.
The shipping company said it works closely with industry groups like the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council to develop safety protocols for the shipping of livestock.
Those protocols include limits on the number of cattle per container and ventilation requirements for containers.
“Over the many years of shipping livestock, incidents where animals perish while shipping are rare but nonetheless unacceptable," said Nicole Galase, the council’s managing director.