Calves exported for Dutch veal brutally beaten, jumped on and hit in the face, hidden cameras reveal

Illegal violence towards Irish calves exposed – as Ireland planning to increase numbers sent abroad

Jane Dalton
Sunday 05 May 2019 12:31 BST
Unweaned calves were hit violently kicked and stamped on at a resting post in France

Veal calves from Ireland were beaten, hit in the face and jumped on by workers at a resting post for live exports in France, secret footage has revealed.

Some were kicked and hit so hard they collapsed in the shocking scenes filmed during an investigation into the treatment of live exports.

It is the first time such brutal and illegal violence towards animals sent to Europe has been caught by hidden cameras.

Ireland has increased the number of calves it sends to the EU – which now stands at 160,000 a year – and it plans to increase them further.

The footage reveals a worker at the centre near Cherbourg casually beating calves on their faces with a rod, then forcefully hitting one facing a different way.

Many animals – unweaned and still needing their mothers’ milk – are grabbed by the ears and dragged to the feeders.

As the animals drink, the worker needlessly hits them on their backs. When one tries to muscle its way in between others, the worker hauls it away and slams it to the ground.

Another is roughly pulled off a feeder, beaten and violently shoved back again.

But the most horrific scenes are of the worker jumping and stamping on a calf.

Another animal is so badly injured that it was filmed dragging itself along by just its front legs.

Later, as it lay helpless, it was kicked by a worker.

Investigators said the men yelled as they rushed at the calves.

The resting post is certified by the EU as a “high-quality” one and has received subsidies for renovations.

Activists from the Eyes on Animals and French L214 groups who revealed the “horrific” abuse said the young animals were already exhausted and thirsty from journeys of over 18 hours from Rosslare to Cherbourg when they were unloaded near Tollevast.

The calves were already very weak, suffering exhaustion, lack of feed, lack of water and lack of rest

Nicola Glen, Eyes on Animals

French media have reported that a man has been arrested for cruelty.

At least 2,500 calves are unloaded at the centre every 12 hours before being reloaded for journeys to Dutch veal farms, activists say.

The witnesses, who followed 23 lorry-loads of animals last month, said calves were routinely transported over the maximum journey time of 19 hours, on lorries with inadequate drinking systems.

A report by investigators said the handling of the calves was “violent and shocking” and that neither other workers nor the manager intervened.

A worker is filmed using all his strength to push a calf’s head down onto a feeder (L214/Eyes on Animals)
A worker is filmed using all his strength to push a calf’s head down onto a feeder (L214/Eyes on Animals) (Eyes on Animals / L214)

Nicola Glen, of Eyes on Animals, said: “The calves were suffering stomach upsets, especially diarrhoea, and were already very weak, suffering exhaustion, lack of feed, lack of water and lack of rest due to overcrowding.”

Ireland’s live exports are rising and deputies are lobbying for further increases. Last year the country sent 246,000 cattle, including 160,000 calves, abroad, an increase of 30 per cent on 2017, which also had a rise of 30 per cent on 2016, a report shows.

Northern Ireland also exports an estimated 25 per cent of male dairy calves to veal facilities, mostly in the Netherlands.

French authorities have approved extra capacity of 400 animals at Cherbourg, bringing the official capacity to 1,200 a week.

Irish agriculture minister Michael Creed told deputies: “I will continue to advocate on behalf of exporters on this issue,” adding: “What I will not do, however … is facilitate live exports through the breaching of regulations.”

L214 and Eyes on Animals are lobbying the EU to ban all transport of unweaned animals.

The worker hits the calves with a stick (Eyes on Animals/L214)
The worker hits the calves with a stick (Eyes on Animals/L214) (Eyes on Animals / L214)

In February, MEPs voted for maximum journeys of one-and-a-half hours for unweaned animals.

A spokesperson for Ireland’s agriculture department said it condemned “in the strongest terms” any ill treatment of livestock and urged anyone with knowledge or evidence of breaches of regulations to report it.

“Ireland applies strict controls in relation to welfare of animals including during transport and has procedures and checks in place to ensure compliance with EU and national legislation,” the statement said.

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“Prior to export all livestock undergo an animal health and welfare check by a department official veterinarian.

“All trucks are inspected and checked for water, spacing and other legislative requirements prior to departure. Where non-compliance is identified, appropriate remedial action is taken.”

A spokeswoman for the French government office of animal protection said the footage was “absolutely dismaying”.

She added: “All the relevant people have just been informed in France (at the local level as well as at the national level). Measures will be urgently taken so that this individual cannot continue to harm young calves.” The worker should be heavily punished, she said.

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