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Opinion: Allowing animals to be exported from Ireland to Turkey is no victory

Over five years, sheep, cows, and goats were illegally kept on trucks at the Turkish border for days on end in squalid conditions without being offloaded, writes Peter Stevenson.

Peter Stevenson

TURKEY HAS GIVEN the green light to the import of live animals from Ireland.

Hailed as a ‘positive development’ by the Irish Farmers Association, it means that thousands of vulnerable Irish calves will suffer on long journeys in horrific conditions.

They will often endure these arduous journeys just to face cruel slaughter methods at their destination. Otherwise, they will most likely be fattened in barren feedlots, a far cry from lush Irish pastures.

Compassion in World Farming, alongside a wealth of other animal protection groups, has shown time and again the immense suffering involved on such journeys.

Most recently, a 2016 report published by animal protection groups Eyes on Animals, Animal Welfare Foundation, and Tierschutzbund Zürich – supported by Compassion in World Farming – revealed truly horrendous conditions inflicted on animals being transported from the EU into Turkey.

Big problems

The report showed that over five years, sheep, cows, and goats were illegally kept on trucks at the Turkish border for days on end in squalid conditions without being offloaded.

They were given no shade in extremely high temperatures, and also endured a basic lack of food and water, with some animals exhibiting signs of extreme dehydration.

Long delays lasting on average 17 hours were found to be the norm at the border. In some cases the animals were left waiting for several days, even up to one week, kept on board throughout, due to limited facilities for unloading.

During the summer months the stationary trucks were often seen to reach blisteringly hot temperatures, frequently exceeding the maximum of 35°C permitted by EU regulations.

Many animals became desperate with hunger and thirst, some even resorting to eating their bedding – filthy from their own waste.

Dying

Injured, dying and birthing animals were left without any veterinary assistance, and dead animals were left on board among those still alive. Despite evidence of these conditions being brought to the attention of the authorities many times over the course of five years, no action was taken to put a stop to these practices.

It is important to note that we are not trying to stop the supply of food to countries outside of the EU – simply that it is entirely unnecessary for the animals to be transported while still alive. If the trade was replaced by a trade in meat and carcasses, the animals would be slaughtered under EU laws designed to protect them from the worst kind of suffering.

This would be feasible, as most countries in the Middle East have the necessary refrigeration facilities. Indeed many already import large quantities of meat from around the world.

The Irish Department of Agriculture has said this announcement follows ‘proactive and detailed engagement’ with their Turkish counterparts.

What next?

In Brussels, blinded by the lure of profits, the European Commission has repeatedly ignored the evidence of cruelty and breaches of legislation presented to them. They have refused to halt this trade or at least to take effective action to ensure that the animals are protected.

Sadly, the outlook for live exports shows steady increases for the next few years. The EU’s policy is to increase the trade in live animals with third countries. This policy reflects the push by businesses and farmers to keep production levels up despite decreases in meat consumption in the EU.

How can it be that a whole cross-section of politicians not only turn a blind eye to this cruelty, but actively encourage it?

This trade, in which profit is systematically being placed above animal welfare and respect for the law, needs to be stopped. Opening up the live export trade from Ireland to Turkey is no ‘victory’ or ‘progress’.

It is a symptom of a greedy world economy which regards animals as goods, placed on this planet for our own benefit.

Peter Stevenson is Compassion in World Farming’s Chief Policy Advisor. He has written comprehensive legal analyses of EU legislation on farm animals and of the impact of the WTO rules on animal welfare. He is currently working to highlight the detrimental impact of industrial livestock production on the resources – land, soil, water, biodiversity – on which our future ability to feed ourselves depends.

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Peter Stevenson

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