02 Jun

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

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Student climate strikes around the world – in pictures

Undercover footage by activists has exposed brutal treatment for one batch of young calves being trucked to the Netherlands to be sold as veal

Undercover footage appears to show a worker jumping up and down on a calf.

Undercover footage appears to show a worker jumping up and down on a calf. Photograph: L214/Eyes on Animals

Irish calves as young as two weeks old are being beaten, kicked and punched, according to secretly filmed footage.

Campaigners followed more than 5,000 calves on 23 livestock trucks from Ireland to the French control post at Tollevast, where animals are supposed to find rest and feed under EU laws.

Instead, the footage appears to show the animals beingdragged by their ears, stamped on and routinely thrashed by workers with batons. Some animals in the footage were so severely mistreated that they collapse in pain, dragging their hind legs along the floor, unable to stand up.

An undercover video taken at the control post operated by Qualivia in March appears to show one worker throwing a calf to the floor and repeatedly jumping up and down on it.

Nicola Glen, a spokeswoman for Eyes on Animals, which co-authored the investigation, said: “‘It is heartbreaking to see how these vulnerable animals, still unstable on their legs and dependent on their mothers milk, undergo horrific violence during transport to the Dutch veal facilities.”

In the video, workers can be seen slamming the calves’ faces into plastic feed teats and batoning their heads and backs. The animals, desperate for milk after a long journey with little water, return to the feeds and are beaten again.

Undercover footage appears to show a worker dragging a calf by its ears.

Undercover footage appears to show a worker dragging a calf by its ears. Photograph: L214/Eyes on Animals

“The Netherlands is the driving force behind this transport and Ireland is the main supplier,” Glen added. “Both countries should be taking responsibility for the welfare of these calves.”

The video violence is being investigated by French police, who reportedly arrested the worker seen stamping on a calf in the video last week. The man could face two years in jail.

Robert Drisque, the head of the Qualivia control post declined to comment, saying only that it was a “difficult situation” that had affected his team psychologically. But the case shines a light on the hidden – and often brutal – world of livestock transportation, according to campaign groups.

Isis La Bruyère, an inspector for L214, a French campaign group which co-authored the report, said: “The response by the authorities was fast in this case. That is good, but we haven’t seen any movement on the exports business itself so far.”

Qualivia is itself considered a “high quality control post” and has received EU money to expand its operating facilities.

Bruyère said: “Our demand is to ban the long [haul] transport of unweaned animals because in this transportation, there cannot be animal welfare.”

Ireland’s exports to the continent are increasing at an annual rate of 30% and it is now one of Europe’s biggest vendors of unweaned calves.

Male calves are viewed as an unwanted byproduct by dairy farmers and 160,000 were exported from Ireland to mainland Europe last year – along with 85,000 adult cows – to be sold for veal meat.

The animals are transported over long distances en route to the Netherlands, Spain and Italy, where they often arrive in a poor state.

Once in control posts, the unweaned calves, newly-separated from their mothers, are desperate to suckle on plastic milk teats. But farm workers face intense pressure to hurry the process due to the huge volumes of animals arriving and leaving each day. This creates a recipe for cruelty, says Lesley Moffat, the director of Eyes on Animals.

“Unfortunately, this sort of mistreatment is really common,” she told the Guardian. “The calves are treated very roughly at livestock markets because they’re so wobbly on their feet and don’t understand what’s wanted of them. It takes time to get them from A to B and allow them to drink and often the workers end up being forceful and impatient. Many calves are dragged around because they can’t stand up and walk properly.”

The animals are often still in shock after spending more than 48 hours in transit in severely cramped conditions on juddering trucks, with changing temperatures and limited access to food and water.

The EU’s Treaty of Lisbon recognises animals as sentient beings, capable of feeling pain, and a regulation was passed in 2005 protecting animal welfare during transport.

However, the legislation has been dogged by non-compliance and, earlier this year, MEPs called for more unannounced checks, tougher penalties and a minimising of transport times.

Moffat said: “To put a final end to this vicious circle of the dairy industry producing so many calves that they do not want, we have to re-think the whole dairy industry. Either we stop consuming dairy, or the dairy industry incorporates the production of calf meat on the dairy farm by keeping all calves in the herd, with their mothers, and raising them together.”

Around 1.5 billion animals are transported across the EU each year. An individual calf may be born in Ireland, fattened in the Netherlands, slaughtered in Spain and sold in Germany, with substantial knock-on effects for greenhouse gas emissions.

More On The Environment:

World Politics

United States

‘We’re making a stand’: banner brigade prepares blunt message for Trump visit

Campaigners were happy to give up a glorious sunny day to staple placards for this week’s big demonstration in London

Volunteers for the Global Justice Now group hard at work in London yesterday.

Volunteers for the Global Justice Now group hard at work in London yesterday. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

By 2pm they were operating at full capacity, churning out 200 anti-Trump placards an hour. Here, in a ground-floor office in south London, a small army of volunteers was preparing to register its displeasure at the impending arrival of the US president.

Among those frantically making placards urging protesters to condemn a list of his trangressions was Rosanna Wiseman, who said she was affronted by Trumpism.

The half-Brazilian 28-year-old had witnessed the “toxic” influence of the US president in the form of Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, and rising hate crime in Theresa May’s Britain. “Trump is part of a wave of far-right politicians and has fascist tendencies. We shouldn’t be pandering to him,” said Wiseman.

Also helping staple sheets of card to wooden sticks – as temperatures outside soared to 27C – was Hiba Ahmad, who explained it was time to “make a stand”. Born in Mosul, Iraq, before leaving for Sweden as a refugee and arriving in London in 2013, the 25-year-old added she was also making placards in solidarity with those in Iran who were enduring US sanctions – something she had experienced herself as a child.

“We couldn’t get food, we couldn’t get eggs, oranges, medicines – they simply disappeared.”

Trump’s invitation to London was proof, added Ahmad, that the left had failed to develop a sufficiently cogent campaign against far-right forces. “Trump’s visit is a wake-up call for us to get our shit together,” she said.

Trump’s visit is a wake-up call for us

Hiba Ahmad

Alongside her was Hasib Baber, 35, from nearby Brixton, who had sacrificed the hottest day of the year so far out of concern about the “increasing normalisation of far-right politics”.

“So many groups have been thrown under the bus by Trump, you have to stand in solidarity with them,” said Baber, originally from the former colliery town of Ashington, County Durham. Also present in the ad hoc placard construction centre – inside the offices of campaign group Global Justice Now – was librarian Jean Blaylock, 46, who described Theresa May’s invitation to Trump and members of his family, including daughter Ivanka, pictured below, as “ridiculous” and “cringeworthy”.

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