Irish dairy bulls – a fate worse than veal

RTE Investigates exposed the Irish dairy industries dirty secret in July 2023.  It highlighted the horrendous ordeal unweaned calves go through, mostly male dairy calves that are an unwanted by product of the industry. It featured a cruel veal farm in the Netherlands, where the bulk of them end up, showing dark, individual, tiny stalls.

However, there is a lot more to the story that was not featured in the programme. Many of these unwanted calves have to endure far worse than a veal farm in the Netherlands. Many of them are exported to other member states like Spain, Hungary or Romania, and end up getting shipped off to Libya or Lebanon at a few months old, or they are exported directly from Ireland once weaned to countries including Morocco, Israel and Libya.

How do we know this?
Young Irish bull arriving in Israel from Romania 06.09.23


EFI works with many NGOs, including one in Israel (Israel Against Live Shipments) and since a trade deal was agreed with Israel for cattle in 2022 they have started seeing young Irish weanlings from the dairy sector arriving in ships there from Romania and Croatia. Young Irish Fresian bulls were seen arriving in May, June, August, September and more recently on 24th October. Israel Against Live Shipments has video footage clearly showing Irish ear tags. There has been a substantial increase in unweaned dairy calf export to Romania and Hungary this year, but it looks like that is not their final destination – the shipments observed from Croatia contained weanlings with Hungarian and Irish ear tags, suggesting the calves may have been exported to Hungary first as unweaned calves.


60 hour truck journeys in soaring heat

Another fate for male dairy calves, that may not seem like such an ordeal at first, is the Canary Islands. In July EFI was sent footage of Irish weanlings arriving in Tenerife by NGO Animals Angels. It is a very long ferry journey of around 40 hours or more and the young bulls are trapped in the trucks the whole time.


You can clearly see Irish ear tags and the animals are in an appalling state. Animals Angels estimate they were on the truck for at least 60 hours. There are signs of severe respiratory illness in the Irish cattle, they are knee deep in manure and temperatures were soaring at the time. They are young weanlings, ages ranging from 4 – 8 months. It’s shocking that any livestock is being transported to the Canary Islands, whether Irish or not, the ferry journey is too long.

© Animals’ Angels e.V.





© Animals’ Angels e.V.

As well as these horrendous journeys to Tenerife, Irish dairy cattle are also snuck out to North Africa and the Middle East via mainland Europe:

  • They go overland in trucks via ferry to France then from Spain by ferry to Morocco and can continue to Tunisia etc
  • They go by truck to a port in another member state like Spain or Croatia, are unloaded and put directly onto a dedicated livestock vessel.

The weanling bulls seen arriving in Israel from Croatia may have gone directly from Ireland, rather than being fattened anywhere first as the cattle in the shipment from Romania more than likely were. What is scandalous about this is firstly the animals are put onto black/grey flag vessels that would not be approved for use in Ireland. The Minister makes a big display about our high standards, higher than any country in Europe, yet journeys are approved on these sub standard vessels. It makes a mockery of our legislation. Secondly, the paper trail ends when the cattle reach the port in Europe and are unloaded from the trucks and onto the vessel. One concern of ours regarding the sea journeys in general, is the fact the paper trail ends when the vessel reaches the destination port. We don’t know how they are transported after that (often in searing heat) or where they end up. In these situations, where the cattle are loaded onto a vessel in a member state port, the paper trail ends before they even get on the vessel! So we have no idea if any of the animals were injured or died during the sea journey. It’s hugely concerning and totally unacceptable. And DAFM is approving these journeys. The Animal Welfare Foundation has footage of young Irish weanlings boarding vessels at Tarragona port. They also have a lot of documented evidence and photos of young weanlings there, boarding onto vessels for Lebanon and Libya.

In July 2022 five Trainor livestock trucks, a prominent transporter, were seen at Tarragona port in Spain. In the background you can see livestock vessel Karim Allah that left for Lebanon on 5th July 2022. The DAFM live export figures show 286 dairy bulls were exported to Lebanon on 3rd July 2022. The Karim Allah has a grey flag so would not be authorised for use in Ireland. It was also one of the two vessels that went back and forth for two months early last year, from Spain to Libya to Turkey to Greece then back to Spain, with thousands of young cattle on board that ended up having to be euthanised. The captain did not have the correct paperwork. I have since obtained the journey logs for these Trainor trucks under the Freedom of Information Act and they show these bulls were exported to Lebanon via Tarragona port. The entries in the journey logs stop at the port, there is no paper trail after that point. We have no idea how many arrived safely.


Several thousand dairy bulls are exported to the Middle East and North Africa directly from Ireland every year, mostly as young weanlings.

In 2022 1,985 young dairy bulls were exported to Egypt, 133 were exported to Jordan, 761 to Lebanon and 8,121 to Libya.

So far in 2023 380 dairy cows have been exported to Algeria for breeding, 414 young dairy bulls have been exported to Israel, 168 dairy cows have gone to Lebanon, 130 dairy bulls have gone to Libya, 235 were exported to Tunisia and 56 were shipped to Turkey.

Livestock vessel Sarah M arrived at Foynes Port, Limerick, on 1st November and Curzon Livestock, the company behind it, has been sourcing Fresian bulls for the past few months.  We don’t yet know where the shipment will be going.


These are the direct exports. We have no way of knowing how many dairy bulls have ended up in North Africa or the Middle East indirectly. These are countries with appalling animal welfare standards, particularly at slaughter. The only thing worse than the journey is the destination.

Irish dairy farmers, please keep your calves with the herd, do not subject them to a fate worse than death.



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