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‘Sending animals to war zones’: Irish cattle export to Libya may breach laws

Animal welfare groups have warned that an upcoming shipment of young bulls from Ireland to Libya could contravene live export laws.

The shipment, which is expected to consist of 2,000 bulls, would be the fourth this year from Ireland. It is set to leave on Wednesday next week from the port of Cork in south-west Ireland. Previous shipments of livestock have arrived in the Libyan port of Misrata.

The news comes as a European parliament committee of inquiry, announced last month, begins to look into alleged failures to enforce EU rules on protecting transported animals across the EU and beyond, and “to act upon the evidence that EU rules on moving live animals across the EU and to third countries are being seriously and systematically infringed”.

NGOs objected to live animal exports to Libya in a recent letter to the European commission and EU agriculture council. The country has been in chaos since the Arab spring uprisings and a Nato bombing campaign that toppled its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011.

Animals have died on previous shipments to Libya from Ireland, a voyage of about nine days. Caroline Rowley, founder of Irish welfare organisation Ethical Farming Ireland, said she believed the Libya shipments breached several regulations including (EC) No 1/2005, which covers the protection of animals during transport and related operations, the European communities (protection of animals during transport) regulations 2006 and Ireland’s 2013. Animal Health and Welfare Act. All say animals must not be treated or transported in a way likely to cause injury or unnecessary suffering.

“Sending livestock on a long sea journey, where there will be illness, injuries and fatalities, to a country in a state of chaos and lawlessness is unacceptable,” Rowley said.

Olga Kikou, head of Compassion in World Farming EU, said the shipment also appeared to contravene the treaty on the functioning of the EU, with regard to welfare and the security situation in Libya.

The treaty states that “since animals are sentient beings” full regard must be paid to their welfare requirements “while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the member states”.

“The EU should not be sending animals to war zones, it would be impossible to guarantee even the most basic level of protection there. This cannot happen for humans, and it is certain that for animals it would be even worse,” Kikou said.

Ireland has exported a reported 5,647 cattle to Libya this year, up from 4,211 in the same period last year. The total for 2019 was 13,122 animals.

The Irish government says live export within the EU and beyond is a “vital component” of its livestock industry, increasing competition and boosting animal prices. The latest available figures show live exports earned the country more than EUR458m (GBP417m) in 2019.

Responding to the claims its live exports to Libya breached regulations, Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) said in an email it was “satisfied that exports are not in contravention of Article 13 and that journeys certified for export are done in compliance with EU legislation” and in “full compliance with the legislative requirements of EU Regulation No 1 of 2005”.

The DAFM email added that the mortality rate over the three previous shipments to Libya this year was 0.19% and said the date of the upcoming shipment had already been delayed to “late next week dependant on several factors including weather conditions”.

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