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07th May 2019

ISPCA “horrified and angered” by footage of Irish dairy calves being kicked and stamped on in France

Conor Heneghan

Irish dairy calves

Details of the horrific abuse of Irish dairy calves was reported by animal welfare groups Eyes on Animals and L214 last week.

The ISPCA says it is horrified and angered by footage of Irish dairy calves being physically abused, kicked, dragged by the ears, thrown and stamped on by workers at a control post in France after arriving on a ferry from Rosslare in March.

The abuse of the Irish dairy calves was detailed in an investigation by animal welfare groups Eyes on Animals and L214, an investigation which trailed 23 Irish livestock trucks and inspected the conditions the animals were exposed to between 14-17 March this year.

Amongst the disturbing findings in the investigation was that the abuse was so severe, calves were collapsing in pain, dragging their hind legs along the floor unable to get back up. One employee, meanwhile, threw a calf to a concrete floor and jumped on his fragile body with full force while other employees looked on.

Footage of the incidents, which readers should be warned contains graphic content and may cause upset, can be viewed on the ISPCA website here.

The investigation found that calves were transported for over the maximum allowable journey time of 19 hours (as per the EU Transport Regulations (Council Regulation EC 1/2005) and were not rested or fed appropriately. It also found that lorry drivers had exceeded the maximum allowed number of driving hours, risking not only animal welfare but also themselves and other road users.

Furthermore, it was revealed that the trucks being used to transport the cattle were overcrowded and did not have accessible drinking water for the calves during the journey.

In a statement on Tuesday, the ISPCA said “such brutal and cruel handling of calves is completely unacceptable and must not be tolerated”.

The association is calling on Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed to launch an immediate investigation and to immediately suspend the export of calves from Ireland to France and the Netherlands until the investigation is complete.

The ISPCA added that it is concerned about the large increase in the number of dairy calves being exported to the continent from Ireland over the past few years.

The Irish dairy herd has increased from 1.1 million to 1.5 million over just a few years, an increase the ISPCA described as rapid and unsustainable and which it says is leading to an increase in the industry’s waste product, i.e. male calves which are of no use to the industry.

In 2019, the industry aims to export over 200,000 dairy calves from Ireland, having already exported 29,000 calves, 34% more than the same period in 2018.

The ISPCA believes it is time for the government to explore alternatives to live exports of calves, including raising male dairy calves for the beef or veal industry – with the meat to be exported on the hook not the hoof – and to work with the importing countries to increase capacity to import chilled or frozen meat products.

The ISPCA says it would also like to see the government encourage farmers to produce rose veal for export and support the high welfare standards introduced for this purpose by the RSPCA Assured scheme in the UK.

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