Britain is rightly banning the export of live farm animals, ending the suffering they endure over long journeys in trucks and ferries, only to be slaughtered in countries with minimal regard to welfare.
Livestock will instead be slaughtered in this country before being exported, a reform that was not possible while Britain was a member of the European Union due to its obsession with free movement of goods.
There’s no starker example of the horrors of live exports than the Elbeik, a ship that’s roamed the Mediterranean for three months with a cargo of around 1,800 young bulls.
No country would accept the animals over fears that they had the disease bluetongue.
They had left Spain and the ship had entered Turkish waters, which put them in a bureaucratic limbo because bringing them back into the EU meant they were now classified as a live animal import.
Animal welfare groups have reported that 179 are already dead, with the rest facing being put out of their misery by the authorities in the Spanish port of Cartagena.
The horrific picture above of a dead bull being hoisted off the ship was taken by the animal welfare group Four Paws.
Its director of farm animals Dr Martina Stephany is calling for an immediate halt to live animal transports in the EU.
“Instead of transporting live animals in agony for weeks, we need the transport of meat,” she said.
“Sentient beings deserve to be treated with dignity.”
She is also horrified by suggestions that any of the bulls that are not diseased may still be exported.
“The fact that the question even arises whether the animals can still be shipped to third countries to be slaughtered there without anesthesia under the most brutal conditions after they have had to suffer three months of hellish torture is downright perverse,” she said.
Compassion in World Farming tweeted: “Tragedies like this cannot be allowed to happen again. @EU_Commission you must #BanLiveExports.”
More than 850 young bulls from another ship, the Karim Allah, were put down in Spain earlier this month after Turkey refused to let them be landed.
The umbrella organisation Euro Group for Animals, which includes the RSPCA, says: “The nightmare of the animals on board the Elbeik, as well as the ones transported by the Karim Allah, clearly shows that animal welfare cannot be guaranteed during long-distance journeys and that, in case of crises, interventions are impossible or ineffective, especially when it comes to export outside the EU.
“We call on the European Commission to investigate this case and hold parties accountable for violating relevant EU animal health and welfare law, as well as maritime safety ones.
“Additionally, we call on the EU institutions to use the revision of the Transport Regulation to put an end to long-distance transport of live animals and favour a meat/carcasses and genetic material trade over live transport.”