Dutch minister concerned about transport of young calves from Ireland

Irish calves, only a few weeks old, taken from their mother, photo: Eyes on Animals
Irish calves, only a few weeks old, taken from their mother, photo: Eyes on Animals

“I am very concerned about the transport of these young calves,” the Dutch minister of Agriculture, Henk Staghouwer, said about the long transport of young calves from Ireland to the Netherlands.

“Recent reports on imports from Ireland, with calves on the road for 50 hours with only one feed, confirms to me that these transports shouldn’t take place,” Staghouwer said in April. “I will continue the commitment to ban long transports of calves and other unweaned animals in the EU.”

In March, Dutch animal welfare organizations Eyes on Animals, Ethical Farming Ireland and EU parliamentarian Anja Hazekamp followed baby cows not older than four weeks being transported in trucks to the port of Rosslare in the south of Ireland.

The trucks then boarded a ferry from Swedish shipping company Stena Line for an 18-hours journey to Cherbourg in France. The animal welfare organizations said the young calves were on the road for a total of 50 hours.

“At that time, they were only given milk once. That is disastrous for young animals who are completely dependent on milk and have an immune system that has not yet developed,” Eyes on Animals said.

Ireland has a large dairy industry. Farmers impregnate cows every year, so they give milk continuously. As a result, hundreds of thousands of calves are born every year. These baby cows are seen as unwanted by-products of the dairy industry.

“Each spring, thousands of these very young animals are collected from Irish dairy farms to be shipped to fattening farms,” Eyes on Animals said. After fattening, the animals are killed, and their meat is sold as veal.

Calves kept their whole short life on hard floors in the Netherlands, photo: Eyes on Animals

The Netherlands is the largest importer of these baby cows. “Our country has a huge veal industry. During their short lives, we keep calves in dark stables on hard floors, until they are slaughtered and processed into veal,” Eyes on Animals, based in Amsterdam, said.

“Our inspections over the past few years have shown that this route from Ireland systematically violates EU rules on rest periods and feed. The result: many sick and weakened calves. It is not without reason that the use of antibiotics in veal farming is still high,” the organization said.

Eyes on Animals added that the abuses have been tolerated by the authorities and the industry for years.


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