Ethical Farming Ireland has been investigating the export of unweaned calves from Ireland for some time now and has been particularly concerned over rough handling and the fact calves cannot be fed during transit.
Two investigations by Eyes on Animals and L214 in 2019 and 2020 have uncovered horrific abuse at both control posts in Cherbourg and despite assurances from DAFM and Stena Line that measures had been taken to improve calf safety and welfare it is clear that if any have been taken they are ineffective. Both investigations also obtained footage showing at least one calf fatality. DAFM does not record the number of deaths during these journeys so we do not know how many die on the way to the veal farms. This brings into question claims by Minister Creed that the live export industry is one of high welfare – how can such a claim be made when the mortality rate is not known?
Furthermore, when Minister Creed was informed of the investigation results back in April questions were also raised over the issue of calves not being fed during the long, arduous journey to Cherbourg. As the ferry journey is 17 – 18 hours long and it is not possible to feed calves milk or replacer whilst on the truck, it means that they are going 24 – 30 hours with no feed. This is not acceptable.
A joint letter from Compassion in World Farming, Eyes on Animals and Ethical Farming Ireland had already been sent to Minister Creed in March of this year asking that the live export of calves be stopped because it is not possible to send calves on these long journeys without causing them undue suffering – a breach of Regulation 1/2005 Article 3. Minister Creed responded stating that Ireland was compliant with EU Regulations but did not address the issue of feeding unweaned calves during transit.
It would now appear that Ireland is not compliant and there have been serious and systematic breaches of Regulation 1/2005 for years with regard to feeding interval requirements for unweaned calves. There are exemptions to the Regulation where there is a roll on roll off (RORO) ferry journey (1.7a) and Minister Creed’s office has claimed that the sea journey is not included in travel time. Eyes on Animals queried this with the EU Commission and received confirmation this is not the case and animals transported on journeys including a RORO must be fed at the same frequency as ones transported solely by road. Water and feed times are NOT exempt. The exemption only applies to travel and rest times. EU law stipulates that calves must be given water and feed if necessary after nine hours and must be fed after a maximum travel time of 18 hours. The EU Commission has confirmed that the exemption in point 1.7(a) specifically refers to journey times and rest periods, but the requirements under Regulation 1/2005 1.3 and 1.4, such as watering and feeding intervals, must still apply, even during transport by sea. Adult animals can technically be fed on board the vehicle by placing hay inside but it is not possible for one truck driver to feed 300 calves milk or milk replacer, spread over three tiers.
Minister Creed has recently claimed that Ireland operates to EU-plus standards with regard to live export. However, the Department has been facilitating an unlawful trade for years. There must be no more approval of journey logs for unweaned calves. EFI is delighted to hear the announcement of an inquiry committee into live transport as there have been continuous and systematic breaches across all areas.