Live Exports

Live animals, including calves, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses are routinely transported by road, rail, sea or air across countries and continents. Millions endure journeys of hundreds, and often thousands, of kilometres, only to be slaughtered on arrival or be fattened in frequently inhumane conditions.

Animals are sentient beings and feel pain and stress just like we do. Long distance live animal transport more often than not results in overcrowding, with animals being crammed into vehicles, and many being injured or trampled to death.

A Change of Heart

Sivalingam Vasanthakumar had a long history of animal agriculture. From growing up on a Sri Lankan dairy farm to studying agriculture in both India and the UK, one might think this was second nature for him. However, Vasanthakumar constantly struggled with anxiety. He would watch these animals he raised be lined up for slaughter and share in their stress. In an interview, he noted that the animals “would try to hide in the back of the trailer and wouldn’t want to come out.”

Eventually, this highly stressful, emotional process became too much for him, and one day he decided he could no longer partake in the slaughter of these sweet animals. He loaded up his sheep, but instead of taking them to the slaughterhouse, he took them to Goodheart Animal Sanctuaries! He has now adopted a vegetarian diet and transitioned to vegetable farming. He still maintains a relationship with animals by keeping some cattle to roam free and graze on his land.

Read about farmers who recognise farm animals as friends, not food.

Exhaustion and dehydration are the norm on these journeys. The animals can be in transit for days, suffering extremes of temperature and often without sufficient food, water or rest. Many will die before they arrive at the destination.

The spread of diseases across the globe (bluetongue virus, foot and mouth disease, avian influenza, swine fever) can be directly attributable to the live transportation of farm animals.

When animals are exported from Europe to countries outside the EU, they are no longer protected by EU law. This means they can face terrible abuse during transport and at the time of slaughter.

In addition to routine suffering, long distance live transport can also result in fires, delays or sinking of livestock ships causing the suffering and death of large numbers of animals.

The live export of farm animals involves animals that are raised in intensive conditions (factory farms), as well as animals that are raised in outdoor, extensive systems. Why put an animal through the stress of a long-distance journey when that same animal could be slaughtered near to where it has been raised, and the meat from that animal then exported?

EU legislation is very specific when it comes to the requirement to provide rest and water during long-distance transport, yet it is commonplace for these regulations to be ignored, leading to situations in which animals can go without rest or water for 24 and more hours. The quicker a driver can make the long journey, the sooner his truck will be available for another job. It is all about getting the animals to their destination in as short a journey time as possible. Unloading and watering is a lot of effort for a truck driver, and it wastes much valuable time. If you can get away with it, why wouldn’t you?

Calves: The export of live cattle and calves from Ireland has risen dramatically in recent years due to the exponential increase in the size of the dairy herd, with over 200,000 calves being exported to Europe in 2019. The ferry journey is around 19 hours and they cannot be fed without being unloaded. On these long and arduous journeys, calves often have no access to food or water for in excess of 24 hours. They cannot regulate their own body temperature efficiently and they have weak immune systems which leave them susceptible to illnesses like pneumonia. The veal farms they end up in are indoor barns with barren stalls that are too narrow for the calves to turn around in. Bare, slatted flooring is the norm. The majority of exported calves are sent to Spain where they can end up transported on to Libya, Lebanon and Turkey. Welfare legislation in these countries is weak and poorly enforced, while slaughter methods are barbaric and inhumane.

Cattle: Approximately 24,000 cattle were exported from Ireland to North Africa and the Middle East in 2019. Countries include Turkey, Libya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Death on these 10 – 14 day journeys is commonplace, as are injuries due to falls. The animals spend much of the journey standing in their own excrement, slipping and falling and breaking limbs as a result. Animal welfare legislation in these countries is weak, as is enforcement. Routine methods of slaughter include the slashing of tendons, stabbing in the eyes, being strung up by a rear leg, and multiple slashes at the throat.

Sheep: Over 30,000 sheep are exported from Ireland to Europe each year. Most are exported for religious slaughter in the run up to the festival of EID during July and August, when temperatures can exceed 30 degrees, resulting in extreme heat stress and thirst. Pop up slaughterhouses, where there is no pre-stunning, is commonplace.

Animal welfare organisations across the globe have campaigned for an end to the live export trade for decades. Recognising that it will take a long time for this to happen, some campaign for a higher age limit at which animals can be transported over long distances; for animals to be fattened and slaughtered as close as possible to where they are raised; for the imposition of a journey time limit of eight hours; and for the live trade for slaughter to be replaced gradually by a trade in meat.

We at believe that the live export of all farm animals should cease. Its continuation means unnecessary suffering for the animals when alternatives are available. It’s a morally bankrupt trade and has no place in a civilised society. That is our view and that is our campaign objective: to help bring about an end to this barbaric trade.