They were among a consignment of 40 Fresian Holstein cows which had stopped for feeding and watering early yesterday near Harwich in Essex. Ministry of Agriculture vets said the evidence pointed to stress and exhaustion rather than disease.
The cattle were in transit to Ireland - part of a growing Dutch-Irish trade in pregnant livestock which has been troubling vets and animal welfare officials at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Under EC law, the animals should not travel for more than 15 hours in Britain between stops for feeding and watering. On the Continent the maximum legal journey time is 24 hours. Journey plans have to be made and carried by the lorry driver, showing scheduled stops.
But spot checks by Ministry officials have found some Dutch drivers without journey plans, or plans which made false declarations. 'There seems to be little will in Holland to stick to the law,' a veterinary source said.
In the latest incident, the 40 cattle had made an eight-hour ferry crossing in their lorry trailer from the Hook of Holland to Harwich. Conditions in the hold were hot and humid. The heifers had been due to be taken by lorry to Fishguard in West Wales, then on to Dundalk.Reuse content