Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has revealed a thorough investigation is taking place into the circumstances of the journeys undertaken, after four animal welfare organisations reported alleged violations on calf trucks leaving Rosslare.
The allegations stemmed from surveillance of calf trucks leaving Rosslare and heading to Cherbourg in France on the Stena roll-on roll-off ferry service, in mid-March, carried out by an animal welfare organisation called Eyes on Animals, based in the Netherlands.
Eyes on Animals said their members trailed one calf truck to its final destination, a veal farm in the Netherlands, and that all calves arrived alive at the veal farm.
However, they reported a number of alleged violations to authorities in Ireland and the Netherlands.
Mr Creed said: “I am aware of the recent investigation by Eyes on Animals on a number of transporters from different countries leaving Rosslare port.”
He responded in the Dáil, when Kildare North Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy asked a question on potential breaches of EU regulations regarding animal exports.
“I wish to assure the deputy that in relation to the Irish trucks involved, a thorough investigation is taking place into the circumstances of the journeys undertaken. This is being done on conjunction with the French authorities,” said Mr Creed.
Eyes on Animals said their members documented that at least six calf trucks that came off the Stena Carrier did not stop at the first available control post, near Cherbourg, to unload calves, as required by EU regulations.
Instead they drove for a further five hours, exceeding the maximum allowed transport time of 19 hours for unweaned calves, said Eyes on Animals.
The calf truck they followed to a veal farm in the Netherlands had a total journey of 56 hours and 35 minutes (including the ferry crossing of 19 hours, and rest time of 12 hours at the control post).
Eyes on Animals said calves were confined in the truck for the 32 hours and 11 minutes first leg of the journey, and this exceeded the EU regulation time by 13 hours and 11 minutes.
Eyes on Animals said there was enough bedding, and the loading density was acceptable, but some calves on the first level did not have enough headspace, and it was very difficult for the calves to access and suckle on water teats fitted in the truck.
The alleged violations are:
- At least six trucks did not rest calves at the port or in its immediate vicinity, and exceeded the maximum transport time for unweaned calves.
- Calves in one truck were not given water properly.
- The ferry had at least 17 calf trucks, but only three attendants, instead of one per truck, to take care of the 4,000-5,000 calves.
The animal welfare organisations have demanded an explanation for why journey logs were approved even though they were in violation of animal welfare regulations, and say they will make a formal complaint to the European Commission if they do not get a satisfactory explanation.
Mr Creed said Irish authorities continue to apply stringent standards in respect of the welfare of animals during transport, and carried out over 760 animal transport control inspections in 2016 and about 700 in 2017.