The Risk of Animals in Transit

Farmers have a responsibility – and in most cases a legal responsibility – to ensure that animals in their care and being transported do not suffer unnecessarily and that all steps are taken to safeguard and protect their welfare. However, no matter how stringent the measures put in place, situations can arise beyond the control of those involved which may endanger animal safety.

On Friday 1 June, Mike Clementson, Head of UK Agriculture, received an urgent telephone call from an international livestock handler in London whilst sitting in a traffic jam on the outskirts of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the North of England. The call related to a potential significant loss involving a consignment of 900 live pigs in transit from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to Changsha Huanghua International Airport in the Hunan Province of China.

The aircraft had been grounded at Anchorage airport in Alaska due to a technical fault. While the fault was being investigated the engines were turned off and consequently as a result the coolers maintaining the temperature of the containment area where the pigs were penned was no longer running.

As the temperature rose, the owner who was travelling with the animals, became increasingly concerned about their welfare. Pigs are prone to stress, and in particular heat stress which is life-threatening. Unsure when the aircraft when they would be able to turn on the engines, the owner became increasingly concerned for the livestock and the value of it, which was over $1.6 million and contacted his insurer in addition to aircraft officials.

As a global company but one who understands the nuances and subtleties of the niche agriculture market, Crawford & Company prides itself on being able to get even the most specialist of adjusting expertise to any location in the World at very short notice. Within minutes of the call from the insurer, Mike was in immediate contact with our Director in Canada, Paul Hancock, who was able to mobilize one of our agricultural specialist adjusters only a two-hour drive from the airport.

Fortunately, however, the aircraft fault was rectified, and before our specialist adjuster arrived at the scene the airplane took off for China. In total the plane had been on the ground for approximately three hours.

Consequently, Mike was able to swiftly contact Ian McDonald, our Director in Hong Kong to ensure that the assessment of the cargo could be conducted when the plane landed in Hunan Province. We were able to arrange for vets to inspect the pigs shortly after they arrived.  Despite the conditions, nearly 850 of the pigs survived.

Our investigation on behalf of insurers is ongoing to ascertain the precise cause of death and to establish the circumstances that resulted in the loss. The process will also consider the potential longer-term impacts of the incident on the welfare of the remaining pigs.  Crawford’s China team are currently liaising with the insurer in London, the USA based broker, the insured and the veterinary surgeon in order to reach a speedy resolution.


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