Live animal transport crisis: MEPs call on the Spanish and Greek authorities to stop a three months nightmare


Live animal transport crisis: MEPs call on the Spanish and Greek authorities to stop a three months nightmare

10 March 2021
Press Release
The fate of 1,700 bovines is still uncertain: after three months at sea they keep being bounced around the Mediterranean. We join the European Parliament Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals in reaching out to the Spanish and Greek authorities.

For immediate release: Brussels, 11 March 2021 

The story of the two vessels which left Spain back in December 2020 has made headlines around the world over the past weeks (1) (2) but no timely action was taken to save the animals onboard. 

Both livestock cargos were rejected in Tripoli (Libya) due to bluetongue disease suspects and have been navigating around the Med in search of a port, and a buyer, which would accept them. 

Concerned over the animal conditions, a group of EU Parliamentarians, members of the Intergroup on the welfare and conservation of animals and working on live transport, wrote to the European Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides, calling for her intervention to solve the issue. Meanwhile, the ANIT Committee, established within the European Parliament to investigate the implementation and enforcement of the Transport Regulation, immediately contacted the Spanish Minister of Agriculture to share their concerns and require access to any follow-up investigation material. 

To their credit, the European Commission has intervened several times during the past few weeks as this crisis has escalated, with the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, personally reaching out to the Greek authorities in the last few days. The Commission has sought to ensure that the welfare of the animals on board is maintained, to every degree possible, and has reminded Member State authorities of their obligations under EU law.

After spending three months at sea, literally lost in a bureaucratic limbo, the Karim Allah journey ended in Cartagena (Spain) where all the remaining 864 bovines were unloaded and killed. The vessel’s activity was in violation of the current Transport Regulation, due to the lack of contingency plans.

The same fate could await the other vessel: the Elbeik has reached different ports in Greece (Crete and Piraeus) but never docked. The over 1,700 animals onboard have never been checked by a veterinarian in the past three months. Thanks to the relentless work of our members on the ground, and to direct contact with the vessels’ lawyer, we know that there are more than fifty dead animals onboard

We fully support the European Parliament Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals call for: 

  • “An in-depth investigation on the proceedings of the two vessels Elbeik and Karim Allah, as of now urgent actions are needed to mitigate as much as possible the negative consequences that this journey had on the Elbeik vessel’s crew and the remaining animals.
  • The Spanish competent authorities have a clear legal and moral obligation to rapidly find solutions to safeguard the welfare of the bovines. We urge them to request an immediate return of the vessel to a Spanish port equipped to receive live animals. 
  • At the same time, we ask the Greek Government to send without delay official veterinarians on board the Elbeik in order to check the welfare and health status of the animals.”

Other live transport crises happened before, but this last one affects a staggering number of animals: 2,671 bovines, which the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union states are ‘sentient beings’, have been treated just like a commodity. It’s clear that this can’t be repeated. We reaffirm our call to end live export and shift to a meat/carcasses and genetic material only trade.

Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals


Read the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals open letter 
Read more on Live Transport 
Read A strategy to reduce and replace live animal transport

Press contact
Agnese Marcon, Interim Communications Manager, Eurogroup for Animals
+32 (0) 456 078 038

Eurogroup for Animals represents 70 animal advocacy organisations in 26 EU Member States, Switzerland, Serbia, Norway, Australia and the USA. Since its inception in 1980, the organisation has succeeded in encouraging the EU to adopt higher legal standards for animal protection. Eurogroup for Animals reflects public opinion through its membership organisations’ affiliations across the Union, and has both the scientific and technical expertise to provide authoritative advice on issues relating to animal welfare.