There is no excuse for the inhumane treatment of farmed animals, particularly at the point of slaughter, when they are at their most vulnerable. Indeed, any cruelty to farmed animals is unacceptable wherever it occurs in the world.
Recent exposés of the international trade in live farmed animals reveal cruelty and suffering to be routine and tolerated.
Compassion, in cooperation with various like-minded organisations, has exposed throughout Europe, Turkey and Egypt unacceptable treatment of animals in long distance transportation and their slaughter.
Even Britain is not exempt. After an undercover investigation documented cruel and unnecessary treatment of pigs, I repeated my call for the installation of CCTV in British slaughterhouses to ensure the law is strictly enforced and any transgressions prosecuted.
You may also recall my interview with Lyn White from Animals Australia. She documented shocking examples of cruelty when cattle raised in Australia were killed in Indonesia.
Thousands of live farmed animals are needlessly transported long distances across continents, including from continent to continent, and across the world’s oceans, often to countries whose slaughter methods would be considered illegal by those with stricter laws.
There is no justification for the long distance transportation of live farmed animals. Animals should be slaughtered in the country where they are raised. Their carcasses should be shipped to the countries where they are consumed.
A case in point is the Gracia Del Mar, a livestock carrier cargo ship which left Brazil for Egypt with 5,600 cattle.
On Friday, March 2, Animals Australia contacted Compassion with information they had received about the Gracia Del Mar. She encountered severe weather, apparently a freezing snowstorm off the coast of Algeria, which caused the deaths of 1,200 cattle.
My colleague, Peter Stevenson, immediately contacted veterinarian David Wilkins at the International Coalition for Animal Welfare (ICFAW). ICFAW represents animal welfare organisations, including Compassion, at the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The OIE is the international agency which is responsible for mediating solutions to issues such as the Gracia Del Mar. ICFAW immediately brought to OIE’s attention the unfolding tragedy with the Gracia Del Mar. On March 9, ICFAW followed up with a letter to OIE’s Director General, which said:
‘We are concerned that the competent authorities of Egypt and Brazil and the OIE did not pay sufficient regard to the OIE recommendations on the transport of animals by sea in dealing with this disaster.’
With the OIE’s failure to act quickly, ignoring their own guidelines, the tragic fate of the surviving cattle on the Gracia Del Mar was set in motion.
With 1,200 dead cattle on board, the Gracia Del Mar continued to sail along the north African coastline to Egypt. But Egypt refused her permission to unload anywhere in the country. She docked in Port Said, which is at the northern entrance of the Suez Canal. A veterinary committee inspected the Gracia Del Mar and found the health status of the surviving cattle, estimated to be 4,400, to be very poor. The committee rejected the shipment and refused permission to the Gracia Del Mar to remain in any Egyptian port, including Port Said.
The cargo ship was given permission to cross the Suez Canal. But, by the time she arrived at the port of Sokhna, a further 350 cattle had died, making a total of 1,550. The Sokhna port authorities refused the Gracia Del Mar permission to dock. She stayed outside the port for three days. During this time a further number of cattle, about 450, died. The total number of dead cattle now stood at least 2,000.
The Gracia Del Mar then sailed to Djibouti, which is a country in eastern Africa at the southern end of the Red Sea. Here, the surviving cattle, about 3,600 were unloaded and will stay for about two months for fattening.
If the journey that these surviving cattle experienced was not bad enough, the fate awaiting them most likely will include another voyage up the Red Sea from Djibouti possibly to the port of Safaga in Egypt for slaughter. Undercover footage shot last year in the slaughterhouse in Safaga documented the cruel and horrific methods used. Just consider for a moment the catalogue of suffering and deprivation these surviving cattle endured from Brazil, across the Atlantic, the Mediterranean Sea, the Suez Canal, and the Red Sea for their lives to end in inhumane deaths in an Egyptian slaughterhouse.
There is no justification for any long distance trade in live farmed animals, which must be replaced with a carcass only trade.
Meanwhile, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) must conduct itself in a more responsible manner. It claims to have a global leadership role on animal welfare and has taken upon itself the task of producing international recommendations on animal welfare, including transportation and slaughter. It must now do more to help developing countries to carry out transport and slaughter operations in accordance with its recommendations.
Even though the OIE failed to intervene in the case of the Gracia Del Mar, I welcome the statement it issued on April 3. The OIE reminded its member countries to comply with the OIE recommendations on the welfare of animals during sea transport.
The OIE statement stresses: ‘Specific standards were already adopted by the 178 OIE Member Countries several years ago regarding the obligations of the competent authorities of any importing country. These standards establish that, in the event of a refusal to import, suitable isolation facilities should be made available by the importing country in order to allow livestock to be unloaded from a vessel and held securely, without posing a risk to the health of the animal populations of that importing country.’
Further, the OIE made a commitment that it will ‘remind all Member Countries of the standards adopted by the OIE and the steps that can be taken to prevent this type of regrettable situation’ at its forthcoming 80th annual General Session of the World Assembly of OIE Delegates in May.
Compassion will continue to pressure the OIE to encourage and assist its member countries to implement its animal welfare recommendations. Indeed, animal welfare organisations throughout the world are willing to work with the OIE to help member countries with this implementation.
The tragedy that befell the Gracia Del Mar must never happen again. I know many of you agree with me. More than 40,000 emails were sent by Compassion’s supporters to the OIE urging them to implement policies to ensure it can respond ‘promptly and effectively to future incidents of this nature’.
Together, we can make a difference for farmed animals worldwide.