The video, published by Eyes on Animals (EoA) and the French association L214, shows workers repeatedly beating calves of a few weeks old with sticks. One is kicked and another is dragged, unable to stand. The calf was euthanized by a veterinarian, said an EoA observer.
The Irish dairy sector, which brought in € 4.4 billion (£ 3.9 billion) in export earnings last year, relies heavily on calf farms in continental Europe to buy calves. unwanted male dairy. Dairy cows must produce calves in order to continue producing milk, but male calves are not useful to the industry: they are known as “shipping calves” in the Irish agricultural press.
The latest figures from the Irish national agricultural body, Teagasc, show that there are just over 1.4 million dairy cows in Ireland this year, each calving once, producing around 700,000 male calves. Figures from the Ministry of Agriculture show that nearly 247,000 cattle were exported from the country in 2018.
Last month, animal welfare activists followed calf trucks from the Irish port of Rosslare to the French port of Cherbourg. They documented a number of welfare and transportation offenses.
EU law requires calf carriers to feed and rest calves after nine hours of travel, “if necessary”. After a second journey of nine hours, for a total of 18 hours of transport, the calves must be fed and rested for 12 hours.
But Leso Moffat of EoA said that from what his team had seen, “including the time required to move calves to and from ports, plus an approximately 18-hour boat trip, the calves were on the road for about 23 hours without milk or milk substitute, well above the legal maximum of 18 hours. “
Activists described the handling of calves upon arrival in Couville, France, as brutal. “The four Irish trucks are said to carry around 1,200 calves and when they arrive, they desperately need milk. The workers are getting impatient because they will not leave the feeders. The calves were kicked and beaten several times, especially around the head with sticks. We have seen a collapse, either because of brutality or because of exhaustion and hunger. Or both. “
A year ago, the two groups covered the ill-treatment of calves in another Cherbourg feeding center, Qualivia. Moffat said the incidents could not be viewed as isolated.
The groups have also argued that the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the dairy industry. “The continued export of Irish dairy calves is a nightmare for welfare. It violates a range of EU laws and increases the risk of spreading infections and diseases from one country to another. There is no automatic quarantine for truckers. On this trip, the drivers went from Rosslare to France via Belgium, to Holland, and then they returned home, “said Moffat.
In a press release, L214 described the transport of calves as “an ordeal” under normal circumstances and, during the Covid-19 pandemic, “completely irresponsible”. They called on the EU and the French Ministry of Agriculture to “stop calf transport urgently”.
A lawyer from another welfare organization, currently preparing legal action that could end exports of unweaned calves from Scotland and possibly the rest of the EU, has agreed to the risks to welfare to be and diseases.
“This is why we are asking the Scottish courts to declare it illegal to allow the export of unweaned calves. If we win our cause, we hope it will have an impact across the EU, “said Peter Stevenson of Compassion in World Farming.
Stevenson said he was shocked to see the Scottish and British governments preparing to defend exports of calves by appointing lawyers to the Queen. He said the British government and Boris Johnson had “both said they wanted to end exports of live products”, making their defense “hypocritical”.
Contacted by the Guardian, the director of the feed establishment where the abuse of calves was filmed, said the abuse allegedly shown in the video was “not possible” but declined to comment further. One person who responded to Qualivia’s cell phone number refused to identify herself and said that she had no further comments on the calf abuse video filmed last year.
The Irish Department of Food, Agriculture and Marine has sent a statement by email saying that it “continues to carry out inspection / control activities and to provide certification to the agricultural and food sectors, all respecting HSE standards [the Irish health service] public health advice on hygiene and social distancing protocols. “
The statement also said that “if there is evidence of suspected non-compliance in premises in France, anyone with such evidence should immediately bring the matter to the attention of the authorities who can investigate / respond if necessary”.
At the time of publication, the French Ministry of Agriculture had not responded to requests for comment.