Nearly three weeks of suffering for bulls trapped on trucks at the Moroccan border


Nearly three weeks of suffering for bulls trapped on trucks at the Moroccan border

31 January 2024
Two live animal transport vessels containing bulls from Portugal were detained for 19 days in the Moroccan port of Tangier-Med.

The bulls were confined in extremely unhygienic conditions, which only worsened over time. Forced to stand ankle-deep in their own excrement, many of them developed respiratory problems and inflamed eyes. It was reported that one bull died onboard, his corpse left to decompose inside the vessel where it was trampled on by the other animals. 

The root of this suffering was bureaucratic, with the bulls apparently having been detained due to current import duties and high customs tariffs. Their clearance was said to be contingent on the adoption of new customs regulations. In the meantime, no thought was given to their welfare, with the Moroccan authorities appearing unconcerned with their rapidly-degrading state, and unmotivated to act in the best interest of these sentient beings (for instance, by unloading and quarantining them at their destination or in another stable).

Trade routes should not be entertained with third countries, as it is extremely difficult to influence how transported animals are treated once they leave the EU’s borders.

This incident further highlights the need for a robust revision to the Transport Regulation, as it is a reminder that transported animals are very vulnerable. Measures must be taken swiftly to ensure they experience the least amount of stress possible directly before, during, and after their journeys. With a recent data leak showing the scale of suffering in the live animal transport industry is much vaster than is recognised by official records, the European Commission must not delay on making these critical sector changes happen.

This week, Eurogroup for Animals, together with four other animal protection organisations, sent a joint letter to the veterinary organisations highlighting the poor welfare experienced by animals during these long journeys, as well as the risk of inhumane slaughter on arrival. 

Veterinary officials are tasked with inspecting the health of animals for export, but are often put in a difficult position as they have a contractual obligation to their employer, which might conflict with their ethical one to safeguard the wellbeing of animals. The letter calls on the veterinary community to use their influence to ban the export of live animals to non-EU countries.