Exported EU animals subject to abuse and illegal conditions

Animals exported live from EU countries are routinely being subjected to abuse, illegal transportation conditions and inhumane slaughter, an investigation has found.

Dozens of undercover videos and photographs obtained by the Guardian show live cattle and sheep from EU countries being beaten, shocked with electric prods, held for days in overcrowded pens and covered head to toe in faeces as they are transported from Europe to their final destinations in Turkey and the Middle East in conditions that breach European law. At their destination, at least some of the animals are slaughtered in appalling conditions.

The footage shows cattle and sheep from France, Romania and Lithuania kicking and flailing violently as their throats are crudely cut or sawed at repeatedly, often in crowded street markets and run-down abattoirs. The footage was collected over eight months by campaigners from the Australian animal rights charity Animals International, who worked undercover in Croatia and six Middle Eastern countries to follow animals from their departure at European ports through to destination.

European legislation maintains that export livestock must receive certain standards of care throughout the entire journey, including any stages that occur entirely in third countries. The standards dictate that animal handlers must carry out their task without violence or any method likely to cause unnecessary fear, injury or suffering; that transport and loading equipment must be designed, maintained and operated so as to avoid injury and suffering, and that transport is carried out without delay and at the minimum possible length.

Conte & Giacomini, an Italian law firm specialising in animal rights and shipping and transport law, reportedly reviewed the evidence and stated: “We might deem that the transports shown in the footage are all in breach of the [EU] Regulation EC No 1/2005 [on the protection of animals in transport]. “Moreover, we could also state that, according to the ruling of the European court of justice and to the interpretation of the regulation EC No 1/2005, the competent authorities of the member states of departure shouldn’t even have authorised these transports as they couldn’t ensure that provision would be met,” 

While European legislation covers EU export livestock up until they are unloaded at their final destination, it does not apply to the final stages of the animal’s life.