Around 2,500 Irish cows have been loaded onto a boat that left from Ireland Tuesday morning to Israel. It is the first shipment of Irish cows transported directly to Israel since data on animal exports has been collected.
“That’s a lot of animals. They must be very young. It’s going to be hot during the long stressful journey and when they arrive. From an environmental and animal welfare perspective this is wrong,” Irish animal welfare group Ethical Farming Ireland said.
The live animal exporting company Viastar prepared the shipment, and the animals are being transported on the livestock vessel Ganado Express, which will arrive in Israel on the 8th of June.
Animal welfare organizations and environmental groups have long pointed out the cruelty of live animal exports, which causes the animals significant distress and harm.
Long journeys are stressful, with animals often suffering from overcrowding, harsh conditions, disease, injuries, and inadequate access to food and water. While regulations exist to protect animal welfare, critics argue that these are often insufficient or poorly enforced.
Mortality rates can be high in live animal exports, particularly when animals are not acclimatized to the conditions onboard. The animals are kept close to each other in pens on the ship. Extreme weather conditions, disease outbreaks, and ship mechanical failures can also lead to many deaths.
There are also concerns that animals exported to other countries might be subjected to lower animal welfare standards at their destination, particularly during slaughter, including practices that are not permitted in the country of origin.
Transporting live animals over long distances contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Critics argue that slaughtering animals at the point of production and then exporting the meat would be more environmentally friendly; a shift towards exporting chilled or frozen beef could also improve animal welfare.
There is often limited transparency and oversight in live animal exports, leading to animal cruelty which is usually exposed by members of animal welfare groups who try to film the conditions from a distance.
In the first four months of this year, Ireland has seen an 8% increase in live animal exports, with just over 170,000 head of Irish cattle and calves exported. The key export destinations for Irish cows and calves are the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Northern Ireland, and Poland.
Most calves are exported to the Netherlands, where the animals are kept and fattened in dark stables on hard floors until they are slaughtered and processed into veal.
In April, New Zealand banned live animal exports over animal welfare concerns.