The Government has been urged by a leading animal welfare group to stop live cattle shipments from Ireland to Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa which are worth approximately €35 million annually because slaughtering conditions in the region do not meet international standards on animal welfare.
Compassion in World Farming has expressed concern over the recent resumption of live cattle exports from Ireland to Libya amid growing concerns that the export trade to Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa is resulting in unnecessary cruelty to animals.
Its chief policy advisor, Peter Stevenson acknowledged Ireland had more robust legislation governing live cattle exports than the European Union but said six animals from a shipment of 922 died in February and that raised questions about the welfare of the other animals.
The call come as Fianna Fáil agriculture and food spokesperson Charlie McConalogue raised concern over the number of veterinary inspectors in the State. Mr McConalogue said that the Government had hired only one inspector, against the promised 300 additional inspectors needed by March next year to deal with the extra challenge of Brexit.
“The latest available information shows that Minister [MICHAEL]Creed has so far ignored the red-flags that have been raised within his department regarding the need to increase resources for border inspection posts for live animals and animal products imported from countries outside of the EU,” Mr McConalogue said in a statement.
Last week, live cattle exports resumed from the Port of Cork with 3,500 animals leaving on board the Lebanese-registered, Sarah on July 18th and a further 2,000 animals being exported on July 20th on board the Panamanian-registered Atlantic M, all bound for Libya.
Mr Stevenson said while he was not trying to give Irish sea journeys “a clean bill of health”, he believed the biggest problem was the fact that the animals were being exported to a country where it was simply impossible to guarantee that they were slaughtered in proper, humane conditions.
“Once animals get to Libya, the slaughter conditions are horrendous – in countries like that, animals are not stunned before slaughter, the throat is cut while the animal is fully conscious but that’s not the worst of the problem – most of the suffering will be in the time immediately before slaughter.”
Mr Stevenson said the problem does not stem from the fact that the animals in these Muslim countries are slaughtered according to ritual Halal principles but rather from poor training of the slaughtermen.
“We also have got film of them beating cattle repeatedly on the head with a pole so that the animal drops to the ground and because they are frightened of cattle, they don’t come in close to do at least one clean throat cut but will stand at arm’s length and stab the animal repeatedly.”
“It’s totally wrong for Ireland to be sending animals to a country, where they know international standards are going to be ignored,” Mr Stevenson said.
The Department of Agriculture in a statement said live cattle exports from Ireland to Libya resumed in 2013 and, that in 2017, over 32,000 cattle were exported from Ireland to non-EU countries in a trade valued at approximately €35 million.
The department said that all livestock carriers involved in the export of cattle from Ireland must be approved and are inspected regularly by Department veterinary officials and independent marine surveyors and only approved ships are allowed load cattle for export.