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Opinion We must stop sending Irish animals to Libya where they face a cruel death

Terrified bulls are often strung up by a hind leg while fully conscious, before having their throats slashed at repeatedly until they bleed to death, writes Caroline Rowley

ON 28 DECEMBER a ship called the Sarah departed the docks in Cork carrying as many as 1,700 young bulls from Ireland to Libya.

I was there to witness the unfortunate animals being herded onto the Sarah, where they were set to face a tortuous journey, which normally takes eight days but in that case, ended up taking 11 days.

What is worse is that when they arrived in Libya they faced a cruel death that totally contravenes our rules on how animals should be slaughtered.

In countries like Libya with very poor records on human rights, it is unlikely they will have high standards in animal welfare. There is often no pre-stunning of animals, they are regularly strung up by a hind leg while fully conscious before having their throats slashed at repeatedly until they bleed to death. 

They are sometimes slaughtered in front of each other – which is obviously terrifying for them. Sometimes their tendons are slashed first to stop them moving while having their throats slit and some are repeatedly bashed over the head.

I must point out that this is not halal slaughter – those rules dictate that the slaughter takes place in one clean stroke. This is a barbaric slaughter.

Because Libya is so dangerous at the moment, our investigators have not been able to visit the slaughterhouses there to get video evidence, but we do have video evidence showing the horror experienced by animals in neighbouring Egypt where we have documented inhumane, cruel and inept slaughter.

Who are we?

Compassion in World Farming is an international organisation that campaigns peacefully to end all factory farming practices as we believe that factory farming is the biggest single cause of cruelty on the planet.

I got involved in 2016 because I wanted to find out how I could feed my family more ethically.

We are not calling on everyone to become vegan, rather our mission is to bring an end to cruelty in farming practices and this includes live export, especially to countries outside the EU.

Animals are sentient beings which means they can experience pain and fear in the same way we can. 

Live Export

Live export of cattle to Libya resumed in 2013 after a 17-year break due to BSE. Since then, we have been campaigning to end live exports from the EU to Libya. 

Libya has very little in the way of animal welfare legislation and as it is a war-torn country with serious political instability, whatever rules do exist are likely not to be fully enforced.

There are basic standards for animal welfare set down by the United Nations, known as the OIE standards and we should not export live animals to countries unless they can show that they meet those standards. 

Back in 2014 our chief policy advisor, Peter Stevenson, said Libya is a war zone.  What on earth is the EU doing sending live animals there?

“It’s absurd that the EU is sending animals to Libya when for many months there has been no effective government that could in any way control what goes on in slaughterhouses.

“They will be making no attempt at all to implement the OIE standards which is the minimum level of protection we should expect for EU animals sent to countries outside the EU.”

Since then the cruel business of sending animals from the EU to the Middle East and North Africa has continued.

The issue was recently debated by the Agriculture Committee in the European Parliament and in December they published a report recommending a ban on export to third countries (outside the EU) unless their standards were aligned.

Of course, the incredibly cruel death they face is the worst thing about this trade, but the long sea journeys are also very tough on the animals. 

It normally takes eight days to get to Libya and the animals often become ill, sometimes fatally. They can suffer from injuries and illnesses including broken limbs, broken back, seasickness, respiratory illness, and pneumonia. 

Last February, in one shipment six animals out of 922 died on the way to Libya, reportedly of respiratory illness.  

Not Necessary

Live export accounts for a very small percentage of the agri-beef export industry.

Some farmers have argued that live export is good for Irish farming, as they allege the meat factories here are operating as cartels to keep prices low. 

But if you look at the prices achieved since live export increased in the last number of years, it doesn’t seem to be helping farmers much. It looks to me like the only benefactors from this cruel and unnecessary trade are a handful of exporting companies. 

Live export means exporting jobs in meat processing and by-product processing, so economically it would be more beneficial to slaughter the animals here and export the meat.

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed should be pushing trade in our high-quality beef rather than promoting this pitiless trade in live animals.

Caroline Rowley is the Spokesperson for Compassion in World Farming, Ireland. You can read more about its petition to EU leaders here

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