Irish cattle slaughtered in conditions ‘breaching EU law’

Graphic videos show cruel practices in overseas abattoirs as live exports to Turkey resume

Cattle and sheep which are being exported live from Ireland to the Middle East are being slaughtered in shocking conditions in “clear breach of EU laws”, Irish farmers have been warned.

Graphic videos of slaughterhouse practices, filmed over an eight month period ending in February, have been shown to farming organisations including the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) as live cattle exports to Turkey resume.

The Irish Farmers’Association (IFA) and the ICSA have been working with cattle exporters and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) to reopen trade with Turkey which has been closed for several years.

It is believed deals amounting to at least 40,000 cattle have been agreed. Deals worth 100,000 cattle are already in place with Egypt.


Gabriel Paun, a biologist and EU Director of animal welfare organisation Animals International was in Ireland last week to raise farmer awareness of conditions in the transport and slaughter of animals.

Videos and pictures, copies of which have been obtained by The Irish Times, show clear breaches of EU regulations in the transport and slaughter of animals wearing EU ear tags. Animals International listed Ireland, France and Poland, among other EU countries as being the origin of these tags.

Extremely graphic in their content, the videos show animals hoisted by one hind leg, spinning on a chain as a man with a knife makes several slashes at their necks with an knife.

Other images show an animals being stabbed in the eyes, having leg tendons cut while others have their heads and necks restrained by devices covered in the blood from earlier killings.

In some videos the animals are encased in a machine which rotates them upside down.

Animals International makes the point that the methods of killing is not Halal which, it says, requires that the animals do not suffer and which allows for animals to be stunned before being killed.

Animals slaughtered according to Halal have their throats cuts upon utterance of an Islamic prayer.

Some of the videos show animals being unloaded from ships after sea journeys of almost two weeks, covered in faeces, and packed into open topped lorries en route to the slaughterhouses.

The videos depict the treatment of exported animals in Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey.

Animals International has provided the EU institutions with copies of its findings and MEPs from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals have initiated a procedure for a formal inquiry. A spokeswoman said the videos showed “clear breaches of EU laws”.

A 2015 European Court of Justice decision ruled that any transport provided taking livestock from the EU to a third country must ensure that animal care met EU standards. The country of origin is responsible for this, said Mr Paun. He added there was clear evidence in the videos that there was poor enforcement of this law.

Mr Paun said conditions in the slaughterhouses met neither Halal meat, not EU standards . He said he believed countries of origin would be better served if meat was exported having already been slaughtered. “Why not keep the added value in Ireland?” he asked.

Both the IFA and the ICSA said Ireland had the highest animal welfare and shipping standards, which were overseen by DAFM veterinary services.

A spokesman for the ICSA said the the photographs presented by Animals International “show well fed animals coming off the ship which is consistent with what we know of Department oversight on nutrition and veterinary care”.

He said ICSA has advised Animals International to engage with Turkish authorities to establish how they maximise animal welfare and ensure best practice in their slaughtering facilities.

The spokesman added export trade was vital to Irish farmers to ensure competition for the Irish livestock sector rather than being completely dependent on a number of large scale meat plants which have a long record of paying beef farmers the lowest price possible.

“Turkey is a valuable market for Irish livestock. There are no markets for animals that are not in top class condition on arrival,” he said.

In a statement, the Department of Agriculture said loading of cattle was supervised by its officials and the animals were inspected and certified for health status and fitness to travel before being loaded.

“Cattle on board a livestock ship departing from Ireland are typically bedded and penned in conditions very similar to cattle in any feed lot or cattle shed.

“At the time of the first shipment at end of September 2016, a private veterinary practitioner accompanied the load from Ireland to Turkey and the unloading of the cattle was monitored by a DAFM veterinary inspector who reported that the cattle were well rested, in good condition and were fed following landing.”

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist