4.5 tonnes of cocaine found on a ship carrying 1,750 cows


4.5 tonnes of cocaine found on a ship carrying 1,750 cows

8 February 2023
On 28 January, the ORION V, a vessel bound for the Middle East from Colombia, was arrested off the Canary Islands: 4.5 tonnes of cocaine were found on board.

After 9 days at sea, the boat was stopped for over 56 hours and a large part of the crew was arrested. The rest of the crew was authorised to go to Algeria, as the animals were not allowed to stay in the European Union.

The 4.5 tonnes of cocaine were disguised as animal feed. National Police and Customs Surveillance Service suspect that drugs have been transported on board the ORION V since 2020.

The vessel is closely linked to both drug trafficking and animal welfare/human health issues:

  • In June 2020, during a drug raid, the police noticed 5,000 cattle from Colombia in alarmingly bad condition. The ship was overloaded and dirty, the animals were emaciated, and some were already dead. They were exported to Egypt without any veterinarian treatment. The drug raid had to be cancelled because the drug dogs could not work due to the ammonia smell.
  • In September 2021, three workers inhaled a toxic gas emitted from the cattle feed on board the vessel. Two were injured, one died.
  • Like most livestock vessels, the ORION V is very old and not suitable for animal exports. The makeshift solutions, sharp edges, sloping sides and dirty bedding pose serious dangers to the animals.

The fact that this trade is being targeted by drug smugglers is yet another wake-up call to ban cruel live exports once and for all.

The European Union needs a fundamental change in its agricultural policy. Long-distance transports of live animals must end. Exporting live animals and accepting their cruel slaughter in third countries is not compatible with the values ​​of the European Union.”

Maria Boada-Saña, veterinarian and project manager at Animal Welfare Foundation e.V.