Photo: © Animal Welfare Foundation/Israel Against Live Shipments
Calves being transported from Lithuania to Israel have been found in extremely overcrowded conditions on the trucks, lying in a thick layer of manure and suffering from heat and extreme thirst.
These conditions – suffered on a journey of two weeks for a distance of 1700km – caused the death of some animals, but also made others so exhausted that they had to be dragged by their legs from the trucks.
The investigation by Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) and Israel Against Live Shipments (IALS) trailed the calves along their journey and called Road Traffic Inspection in Poland when they spotted evidence of suffering on the trucks. Official veterinarians were called and found multiple violations of Regulation (EC) No. 1/2005, which states that animals shall not be transported in a way likely to cause injury or undue suffering.
“This was the most tragic sight I have seen in all my years working as an investigator in animal transportation,” says Maria Boada-Saña, investigator and project manager of AWF. “It is incomprehensible how official veterinarians in Lithuania approved these transports.”
Polish officials immediately decided to unload the suffering animals and started administrative proceedings against the Polish transport company Konrad. However, after a 24-hour-long rest at a stable, the animals were carried in three trucks instead of two to Slovenia, where investigators from IALS found terribly weak and exhausted calves upon arrival at Koper.
From here, the transport continued by sea, and the animals were loaded onto the livestock vessel Holstein Express, destination Israel. The calves spend four days at sea without any authority to assess their welfare, or ensure they are treated in compliance with EU legislation.
“Our experience shows that sick animals are usually left untreated, and their dead bodies are regularly dumped into the Mediterranean Sea,” says Yaron Lapidot, spokesperson of IALS. “Investigators have repeatedly found European cattle and calves washing up dead on the beaches of Israel, having been thrown overboard from livestock vessels.”
After arrival in Haifa, the journey of these animals is not over yet. The calves are loaded onto small trucks in which the temperature can exceed 37°C and carried on to quarantine stables where they are kept for a month before being sent to fattening farms.
“By removing the live import tax in 2014, the Israeli government sealed the fate of hundreds of thousands of animals going through hell on the journey to Israel. Ever since then, promises by our agriculture minister to reduce the numbers have not materialized and essentially the public continues to subsidise the imports,” says Yaron Lapidot. “This year we expect that Israel will import about 850k live animals, an increase of 400% since 2014.”
The two organisations have sent a film highlighting the suffering of these animals to EU Commissioner Andriukaitis, and are calling on the European Commission to stop the long-distance transport of live farm animals to Israel and other Third Countries.
“AWF and IALS are the latest of many organisations which are constantly revealing serious welfare problems in the long-distance transport of animals,” says Reineke Hameleers, director of Eurogroup for Animals. “The suffering of animals on such journeys is inevitable, and the European Union must stop this cruel and archaic practice.”
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