400 cattle die on route from U.S. to Russia

Russia's animal health and food safety watchdog plans to urgently get into contact with its U.S. counterpart to discuss the death of about 400 cattle while they were being shipped from the United States to Russia.

"A ship from the U.S. that was carrying 3,900 head of cattle for Russian farms arrived recently at the port of Novorossiysk, but about 400 head perished during transport," the head of the Federal Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Oversight Service (Rosselkhoznadzor), Sergei Dankvert told Interfax.

He said one of the reasons for the deaths could have been the shutdown of the manure removal and ventilation system, "and the animals suffocated on ammonia fumes."

"A strange situation - the ship was certified by the American service to transport animals, but it did not have a back up system," Dankvert said, adding: "If the manure removal system broke down, clean it up by hand."

Rosselkhoznadzor deputy head Nikolai Vlasov, who is directly handling this problem and is preparing to hold a video conference with American officials, said he does not rule out other reasons for the death of the animals.

Dankvert said his agency would like to hear U.S. veterinarians' explanation for what happened. "There are dead animals on a ship. What if they were sick? A decision needs to be made, but judging by everything the Americans really don't want to carry this cargo back," he said.

Dankvert did not rule out that the incident could lead to restrictions on livestock imports from the U.S.

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