Senior MEP says recent case of live animals transported at sea demonstrates ‘urgent need’ for major crackdown

Thomas Waitz says he was incensed by the suffering of a shipload of animals who were stranded at sea for over two and a half months.
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By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

15 Mar 2021

In the latest controversy to hit the trade of live animals, a ship carrying over 1,700 cattle was allowed to anchor in Crete only after EU commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides intervened.

The “Elbeik” was one of two vessels that departed from Spain in mid-December, carrying young bulls destined for Libya and Turkey.

Due to concerns over the bluetongue disease, the two ships were refused entry at all ports they reached. The animals had therefore been circling the Mediterranean in what animal groups called “hellish conditions.”

On March 5, Kyriakides intervened and asked the Greek authorities to provide assistance with the Elbeik which was in need of fuel, feed and food, as well as to assess the condition of the animals.

Hundreds of animals are now being euthanised in Spain, after the second ship, “Karim Allah”, returned with the unwanted young bulls, who are all only between seven and eight months old now.

The same fate awaits the animals transported in the Elbeik if it reaches Spain.

Thomas Waitz, an Austrian Greens/EFA MEP and member of Parliament’s animal transport inquiry committee, told this website, “This is a case of outrageous animal cruelty.”

He added, “There were no emergency plans and a lack of fodder and water and no veterinarian on board, resulting in dozens of dead calves and immense animal suffering. It shows that we should not allow long-distance live exports anymore, especially by ship.”

“It is an extremely upsetting situation where thousands of young bulls got stranded in sea for over two and a half months, only to be killed back in the country where they came from”

Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU

“The ECJ clearly states that we have a legal obligation towards the animals until they reach their destination. But controls on the ships, during the travel and on arrival are de facto non-existent.”

“The system of our industrialised agriculture forces farmers to sell calves abroad instead of fattening and slaughtering them regionally.”

He said, “Over the last few weeks, we have witnessed a failure of the Member States to set up adequate controls and solutions. The Commission must reform the animal transport regulation immediately.”

Parliament has set up a committee of inquiry to probe violations in EU law on the protection of animals during transport. This comes after audits revealed major problems with the welfare of animals during transport.

The committee, which has already met several times, will assess the major barriers currently impeding the enforcement of the Transport Regulation. It is also tasked with examining the responsibilities of the Commission and Member States in enforcing and implementing the rules.

The comments made by Waitz were echoed by Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU. The group had been in close contact with the relevant authorities in Brussels, Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Italy, to minimise the suffering of the animals involved on the ship.

She told this website, “Unlike a sack of potatoes that can be shipped back and forth, cattle are capable of feeling pain and suffering. It is an extremely upsetting situation where thousands of young bulls got stranded in sea for over two and a half months, only to be killed back in the country where they came from – and this considered legal, despite EU law that intends to protect animals during transport and recognises animals as sentient beings.”

She adds, “The intervention by Stella Kyriakides was instrumental in mitigating the suffering of the young bulls in this instance. Still, we all need to look at the upcoming revision of the rules on animal transport and we cannot stress enough how ambitious that revision should be.”

“This is a case of outrageous animal cruelty. There were no emergency plans and a lack of fodder and water and no veterinarian on board, resulting in dozens of dead calves and immense animal suffering” Thomas Waitz, Greens/EFA

“To avoid such scandals and to end this unnecessary suffering, once and for all, the EU must ban the exports of all animals outside its borders. Even animals sent for breeding will encounter cruel treatment due to lack of parity with EU animal welfare standards.”

“It is about time animals are not treated as cargo in the European Union – a region claiming leadership in animal welfare standards.”

The group says that every year millions of farmed animals are transported live on “long and gruesome journeys, quite often in filthy conditions, cramped, and often trampling on each other.”

In summer, it says they are transported in “scathingly high temperatures, dehydrated and exhausted. Some of them perish.”

The commission’s Farm to Fork strategy states that the executive intends to review the legislation on animal transport while, back in December 2019, the Council highlighted that ‘clear shortcomings and inconsistencies remain’ regarding the challenges of long-distance transport in its  conclusions on animal welfare.

According to the Commission’s overview audit reports of animal transport by land and sea there is widespread non-compliance and regular failure by Member State authorities to enforce the EU Transport Regulation.

Campaigners say there are “many loopholes that need to be strengthened” and a need to end to exports of animals outside the EU.

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