In 2019, a livestock vessel capsized in Romania drowning 14,000 sheep. In 2020, a livestock vessel heading to China from New Zealand capsized killed 10,000 cows and 42 crew members. Two livestock vessels with 2,000 very young bulls on board left Spain in December 2020 and were not permitted to unload at any port. Many of the animals died and the rest were 'euthanized' (killed).
Yet, it's business as usual as far as the Irish exporters and authorities are concerned. Livestock vessels regularly sail from Irish ports with cargoes of cattle bound for Libya, Algeria, Turkey, Romania. Cattle are land animals and suffer from motion sickness. It takes 8 - 10 days to get to Libya and 12 - 14 to get to Turkey, crossing choppy seas, particularly around the Bay of Biscay. The pens become quickly soiled and animals frequently slip and injure themselves. Broken limbs are common and the animals must be euthanized when that happens. There is no vet on board these vessels. The crew have some level of rudimentary training and have a captive bolt pistol on board to euthanize the animals.
Humidity, a typical problem in these vessels, is worsened by the high level of ammonia fumes. Respiratory illness is common and is the main cause of death during these journeys. The change in diet causes stomach problems and the animals suffer from stress and anxiety.
The journey is just one part of the problem. Libya is a war-torn country with no effective government in place. There is very little in the way of animal welfare regulations in any country in the Middle East or North Africa. Investigations by animal welfare NGOs have exposed brutal slaughter methods in countries like Turkey and Libya. It is common for the bulls to be strung up by a hind leg and left dangling while the slaughterman stabs at their throats until they bleed out, bellowing in terror and in pain. It is clear from video footage that the men are scared of the bulls. They hit them around the head with poles and slash the tendons so they fall over. They can even stab them in the eyes.
It is a horror show, from beginning to end, yet DAFM refuse to acknowledge what they are subjecting Irish cattle to. Their standard response is that Ireland works with the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health). The OIE is not an enforcement or regulatory body and has no jurisdiction in any country.
The question must be asked: what is the point of having an Animal Welfare Strategy if the government turns a blind eye to this brutal and poorly-regulated trade in live animals?