Party for the Animals demands end to abuse of calves and appointment of Animal Rights Euro Commis­sioner

29 mars 2023

MEP Anja Hazekamp of the Dutch Party for the Animals has called on the European Commission to appoint a commissioner dedicated specifically to animal welfare and animal rights. She also followed the transport of 2,000 tiny calves from Ireland to the Netherlands through France last week, denouncing their brutal mistreatment and neglect along the way: “It is clear that calves shipped to the Netherlands along this route are structurally abused.” Hazekamp calls on the European Commission to close the checkpoint where calves are mistreated as well as to put an end to the maritime and long-distance transport of unweaned calves altogether.

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Anja Hazekamp demands the appointment of a European Commissioner for animal rights and animal welfare.

That there is still no European Commissioner assigned specifically to animal rights and welfare is actually rather strange, according to Anja Hazekamp. “We keep billions of animals in Europe, crammed into stables, trucks, ships, laboratories, zoos, dolphinariums, circuses, arenas, shops and markets, as well as in our homes. Besides that, the welfare of animals in our countryside, our cities, our forests, oceans and seas has been coming under increasing pressure. So, why are the rights and welfare of these animals still not recognised?” Now that the European Union is reviewing its outdated animal welfare laws and regulations, the Party for the Animals believes this is the right time to appoint an animal welfare commissioner.

Evidence of structural abuse calves

Calves in transit from Ireland to the Netherlands for meat production.

That many European regulations in terms of animal welfare are still being seriously violated was proven again this month through footage taken by animal protection organisations L214 and Eyes on Animals at a checkpoint near the French port of Cherbourg. It shows calves being forcefully moved through crowd barriers and systematically beaten with sticks and paddles. Employees beat the calves with full force in the process, the animals receiving violent blows to their heads.

MEP Anja Hazekamp travelled to Cherbourg last Wednesday to take a closer look at the situation and confront the relevant authorities and carrier with their mistreatment of the animals. “At the checkpoint, we found hungry and exhausted calves between 2 and 4 weeks old. During their crossing from Ireland – 19 hours in trucks on a ferry – they had apparently had no access to food or water. That violates European regulations, which require calves to be watered and fed at least every nine hours,” Hazekamp said.

In urgent questions to the European Commission, Hazekamp demands the closure of the Cherbourg checkpoint. “We have seen that the abuse and neglect of young calves in Cherbourg is structural in nature. Such checkpoints are actually intended as a place where animals can recover from their journey, but the situation in Cherbourg only makes their – over 50 hours long – transport from Ireland to France and then onto the Netherlands even worse. Both the European Commission and France have a legal duty to close checkpoints where the welfare of animals is seriously violated,” Hazekamp said.

In the urgent questions, Hazekamp also calls on the European Commission to put an end to the sea and long-distance transport of calves still dependent on milk. “Countless inspections have revealed that long-distance transports are by definition associated with severe animal suffering. Animals spend days and even weeks in transit, abused and neglected.’ Hazekamp stressed that this is unacceptable, particularly where this concerns vulnerable animals such as unweaned calves.

The Netherlands – Europe’s largest producer of veal – imports around 800,000 calves a year from Germany, Denmark and Ireland, which are subsequently fattened and slaughtered in the Netherlands. The vast majority of this veal is then exported to central and southern Europe and China.

“It is disappointing that the Netherlands has not made any move to independently put an end to these transports, but keeps hiding behind the European Union in anticipation of actions,” Hazekamp said. She has been working tirelessly for years to stop abuse in animal transport and the long-distance shipping of animals within and outside Europe. Hazekamp has monitored transports in Slovenia and Croatia and the horror ship Elbeik in the Spanish port of Cartagena in person. A European parliamentary enquiry on animal transport was conducted at her initiative. This revealed the systematic violation of regulations and led to clear recommendations to the European Commission.