Livestock hauliers’ attitudes, knowledge and current practices towards animal welfare, occupational wellbeing and transport risk factors: A Mexican survey
Mexico is the 7th largest producer of beef in the world. The livestock transport is a vital component of today’s world agrifood economy that directly impacts on the development of animal production, animal welfare, public policies, labor regulations, food safety, markets and consumers. In this study two aims were established; the first aim was to identify the attitudes and perceptions of commercial hauliers towards animal welfare and their influence on the accident risks. The second aim was to characterize the current practices of the commercial cattle transport in Mexico and to detect the risk factors for animal welfare and hauliers’ wellbeing. The interviews were conducted individually at the hauliers’ rest points, sanitary inspection points localized along the Federal Highway 57 or at the companies’ offices of cattle transportation. We used univariate, bivariate and multivariate statistics based on a hierarchical cluster analysis. The results showed that cattle transport in Mexico is characterized for long travel distances because the cattle departed from farms in the southern states of Mexico to the feedlots located in central and northern regions of the country. The journeys of short and middle distances departed from the feedlots to the slaughterhouses. The hauliers’ characteristics were: age from 29 to 48 years-old, elementary or secondary studies completed, 65% of hauliers mentioned six years of experience in cattle transport, they learned about cattle transportation by means of a family member who was already engaged in this activity. The cluster analysis identified four hauliers’ groups: groups 1 and 3 were related to animal welfare and groups 2 and 4 less related to animal welfare. This study showed that empathy towards cattle was a key element in identifying hauliers at risk of road accidents during cattle transportation. Years of experience in cattle transport played an important role in emphasizing closer perceptions towards welfare. Considering current trends towards increased transport times and logistics stops, there is a need to develop systems of welfare assessment and decision-making that provide tools and protocols that can minimize the biological cost to animals and hauliers, which may have been underestimated in the past.