March 15, 2023
From Euro Group For Animals

Animal welfare NGOs call for ban of live exports and stronger penalties for violators

Ferdinand’s case is only one out of many, and highlights the systematic failure of animal welfare during transport. The organiser did not coordinate the arrival of the trucks properly and veterinarians had no chance to control the process correctly. A few months after the incident, the vessel (ABEER K, formerly ETAB) was detained in Raša, Croatia, due to severe deficiencies. Some of those can affect animal welfare onboard, such as the water conditions, structural conditions and fire safety.

The importance of animal welfare in livestock transport was once again underscored recently in an audit report on Spain’s livestock transport industry. The audit found that many sea transporters follow generic contingency plans that are unlikely to protect the welfare of animals during emergencies. Additionally, there is an insufficient number of official staff during loading, and delays in loading can create risks for the welfare of the animals, as they lack proper facilities to rest, feed, and water animals. New legislation will not be able to solve the defective nature of live transports.

“The suffering of the bull was obvious, but not even mentioned in the administrative verdict file. The procedure was carried out with clear opacity and lack of coordination by the competent body. We do not know whether the investigative measures we requested were carried out”, says Maria Boada‐Saña, Project Manager at Animal Welfare Foundation. “I hope that the ruling in the Ferdinand case will encourage stronger penalties for those who violate the regulations. We have been making this point for years. There is a notable lack of controls by veterinarian authorities, and examining one violation will often lead to other findings.”

Gabriel Paun, EU Director at Animals International, adds that “Ferdinand’s injuries were so severe that he was unable to walk, and yet he was still subjected to prolonged electric shocks and kicking. He was then pulled by a tractor on a rope to get him back into the truck. After that, he melted in pain and heat at a petrol station in bright sun while the driver enjoyed his lunch. This is not just a violation of regulations; it is a moral and ethical issue that needs to be addressed.”

Adrienne Bonnet, Head of Campaign, Advocacy and Legal Department at Welfarm, states: “It is sad to see a French animal end up in such a situation. The member states of the European Union need to address animal welfare issues in a joint effort. From the approval of transport vehicles to slaughter methods in third countries, such situations can only be prevented if live transports of long duration within and from the EU are stopped.”

Without the intervention of the three NGOs, the case would not have been exposed at all. This leaves transport companies with the impression of an acceptable risk: The sanctions for bad practices are not strong enough to act better in the future, even if they are considered major infringements.

NGOs call for a ban of live exports altogether. Many member states of the European Union use Spain as a loophole to send their animals from industries that would otherwise not be as profitable to third countries.