HONOLULU — The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) commended the latest changes by the Hawaiian Dept. of Agriculture (HDOA) to better protect farm animals on ships traveling between the islands.

The proposed changes come after 21 pregnant cows were found dead on a barge that was traveling between Oahu and Kauai in December 2019.

HDOA committed to the changes as the Hawaiian state legislature introduced companion bills that require the department to declare regulations for the care of animals shipped by sea.

The state agriculture department worked with local carriers Matson, Young Brothers, representatives from the Hawaii Cattlemen’s council, veterinarians, and other industry experts to enact administrative rules within two years that include care and transport provisions mirroring federal animal export standards.

“The 21 cattle trapped on that barge deserved to be treated humanely,” said Erin Sutherland, farm animal welfare attorney for the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI). “This tragedy could have easily been prevented had Young Brothers abided by proper care, training, and handling requirements. We commend the Hawaii Department of Agriculture for moving to set care and transport standards for the thousands of farm animals – primarily cattle – who are shipped to the mainland and between islands each year.”

Young Brothers told Hawaii News Now that it takes its responsibility as a livestock carrier seriously, and works with the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council to develop protocols for the shipment of animals. Matson, which transports animals between the mainland and Hawaii, told AWI representatives that it complies with federal regulations governing the export of animals.

However, another recent report by the Hawaii Tribune-Herald said that the proposed changes to Young Brothers might price them out of the Hawaiian market.