California’s Highway 99 is a north-south freeway that stretches 275 miles between Bakersfield and Sacramento, traversing nearly the entire San Joaquin Valley, a region commonly called the Central Valley. As it evolved, the road went through various stages of development and contained — until 1996 when the the last one was removed in Livingston — intersections and stop lights, many of which created unsafe conditions for motorists. After repeated fatalities, these sections of the freeway became known as blood alleys, a nickname that has occasionally been used to describe the freeway itself. Shrouded in the valley’s infamous Tule fog in the winter and still featuring crossroads and turnoff lanes, the Golden State Highway retains its share of vehicular hazards.
But I call this freeway a blood alley for another reason: it’s a main corridor for the transport of farmed animals (“livestock”) between the many farms (more aptly described as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs) and slaughterhouses that call the Central Valley home. Rarely can I drive the 99 and avoid the sight of livestock haulers, loaded on their way to the kill floors and empty on their way to gather another cargo of victims. Even a glance at Food and Water Watch’s factory farm map reveals just how densely animals are packed into the San Joaquin for agricultural purposes. And they’ll all end up going to slaughter, one by one by the truckload, on California’s Highway 99.