Animal Agro, Part 2: Transport

Monday, Mar. 22, 2010. 8:23 PM
Cooks Straight, New Zealand

I’m on the inter-island ferry, leaving the South Island through the beautiful Queen Charlotte Sound. I was right there, up there on that highest peak in the hills, a little over a month ago, looking down this passageway, the Exit. Yes, I’m very sentimental.

I’ve been up here on the top deck in the front of the boat for a hour watching the blazing sunset paint pink across the sky, and in this whole time only one other person has come up to enjoy it with me. I did rounds through the boat looking for someone interesting to chat with, but as we’re on the late ferry, the crowd (including me) is quite sedated. But I do have some company up here, just beside my bench, through a big trapdoor that ventilates the second tier car park. They don’t say much, but given the conditions I’d probably stay quiet too. Below, one of many trailers full of livestock weeps the familiar and comforting scent of my bovine friends. Through the aerated tarps covering them I can see their pretty eyes peeking up, and for a couple of the unfortunate taller ones, a hairless and bloody patch atop their hindquarters bleed from chafing against the container’s edge. Ouch. I’m sad for them, leaving the greenest rural pastures of the South Island for the decidedly less-green, human-crowded North Island. I wonder, just what will become of them…?

Trailers full of livestock extend the whole length of this huge boat, three queues of six. At the back end of the boat I first discovered the sheep containers, 17 crammed into each 7’x7′ pen, 16 pens to a container. That’s 272 sheep per truck. Every sheep farmer I’ve met so far say that sheep are barely worth the effort, the wool industry being near dead. Shearing is no easy task either, still being done by hand after thousands of years. According to Geordie’s Dad whom I was chatting with yesterday about his flock of 100, they’re worth about $80-85 a piece, for meat. So that mutton trailer is worth ~$23,000. Cows, on the other hand, are much more valuable. The cow trailers have just three crammed into each 7’x7′ pen, with 6 pens in a container. I wonder what their lives are worth.

New Zealand is like sheep heaven, and as you can imagine, it fills me with great joy to see them on a daily basis. It was all roses until the first time I saw them in transport on the road, and I had to face the unfortunate reality that they will become food. Conflicting emotions abound. No sense in rambling on about it. Just sayin…

Here are a couple pics of the first containers I saw, which got me thinking about this in the first place.  What do you feel when you see them?


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