Spain starts killing 1600 calves after months at sea on the Elbeik

Spanish calves on board of Karim Allah, photo: Tallia Shipping Line/Reuters
Spanish calves on board of Karim Allah, photo: Tallia Shipping Line/Reuters

Spain has started killing 1600 male calves who have been suffering for months on the ship Elbeik. The slaughter started Thursday morning at the port of Cartagena.

The animals had been stuck at sea for three months, because the ship was rejected at its destination because of a bluetongue disease scare. After that, no country wanted the ship to enter their port.

After months of trying to find a new buyer for the animals, the Elbeik is back from where it left, and the baby cows will all be killed.

On Monday, the Spanish agriculture ministry said the animals were unfit for further travel to be resold and could not be re-imported into the European Union.

The port of Cartagena is not a slaughterhouse, so an area where the animals will be killed when they get off the ship had to created.

It’s not known how authorities are treating the animals while they’re still on the ship waiting for their death or how they’ll be killed; if it will be done in way that causes the least suffering to the animals.

The killing will take longer than a week, but the animals haven’t been taken to an area with more space to move and have to wait on the ship.

Extremely skinny and dehydrated
A report by Spanish government veterinarians uploaded by the animal rights group Igualdad Animal described the suffering the young cows have endured in the past months.

It said 179 cows on the Elbeik had died during the journey. “The most striking thing is the poor general condition that animals present on all decks,” the veterinarians said in the report.

The calves were extremely skinny and dehydrated. When the drinking system was activated, full of leaks and breakages, the animals started fighting to reach the water.

The animals had skin conditions, wounds, broken horns and tails, ulcers and some were in such a bad state they could barely open their eyes or respond to stimuli.

The animals were till their hoofs in poop and pee and in a moist area, there was no dry area for the animals to sit or rest. They were cramped in small areas and too many calves were on the ship, more than the ship was meant to carry.

Spain could have prevented this suffering
The Spanish government could have prevented this extreme suffering from happening if they had asked the ships Karim Allah and Elbeik to return, when they discovered the calves would be rejected at their destination.

Three days after the ships departed, Turkey let Spain know they would reject the animals from entering their port.

But instead of calling the ships back, Spain let them leave European waters, causing the animals on Karim Allah to suffer for two months at sea and the Elbeik for three months at sea.

“Instead of ordering the ship back to Europe, the Elbeik docked in Turkish waters and was therefore bound to set course for a three-month ordeal,” animal welfare organization Four Paws said in a statement.

“Once live animals have been exported from the EU, they may no longer be (re-)imported into the EU,” they said.

The EU still allows live animals to be transported by sea, but many animal welfare organisations have documented how horrible these shipments are.

“We have been inside these vessels, after a few days the animals are already covered in shit, imagine after two months,” Maria Boada-Saña, a veterinarian at the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF), told The Animal Reader when her organisation first learned about the animals stuck at sea on the Karim Allah and Elbeik.

Most ships with live animals onboard will leave from Spain, Romania or Ireland; the destination is usually a country in the Middle-East or North Africa.

In an interview with The Animal Reader, the director of farm animals at Four Paws, Martina Stephany, said the EU should not allow the transport of live animals by sea if they can’t check if the European animal welfare rules are being followed.

Like many other European animal welfare organisations, she pleaded for an immediate ban.

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