On Wednesday, the French Ministry of Agriculture announced that nearly 800 young bulls left France by boat and stranded in the port of Algiers for more than two weeks would be repatriated and slaughtered. In question: a health and legal imbroglio, which provokes the anger of animal rights associations.
We explain the underside of this story to you.
Why were the bulls blocked in Algeria?
The livestock ship had left the port of Sète (Hérault) on September 3 with these 780 bulls of around 700 kilos each. But the cattle were banned from landing in Algeria due to a “difficulty of interpretation” on the health status of three animals, explains the Ministry of Agriculture.
These healthy bulls had been vaccinated against infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR). However, documents attached to their export certificate bore the mention “IBR positive” – falsely suggesting that they were carriers of the virus, details the ministry. Despite a clarification provided by France, Algeria refused them entry into the territory “for regulatory reasons”.
For its part, the association for the defense of farm animals Welfarm affirms that the bulls exported to Algeria were “not accompanied by documents certifying that they are not carriers of infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR)” and that “the transport of the young bulls should never have been approved by the French authorities at the port of Sète”. What the ministry disputes, for which “there was no breach by the French authorities on the export certificate” which allowed their departure from the Mediterranean port.
Why are they going to be shot?
During their long wait in the port of Algiers, the animals were “fed with Algerian hay”. This is fodder from a country where another animal disease – foot and mouth disease – is present. The government therefore wishes to avoid the introduction of this disease on European soil, even if the risk of contamination is “extremely minimal, but we cannot rule it out”.
As a precaution, the cattle, which will be examined by veterinarians, will be slaughtered and will not be “put back into the circuit of human consumption” after their euthanasia.
“We are outraged by this situation and also very worried. We were asking the government to put in place measures to water the animals, feed them, give them access to veterinary care and the only solution that was found was euthanasia,” reacts Adrienne Bonnet, head of the campaigns, advocacy division. and legal at Welfarm.
Was the boat a garbage cargo ship?
More than the final decision, Welfarm denounces “catastrophic hygienic conditions” on board the ship, evoking certain dead animals. “The corpses as well as the animal droppings were not evacuated”, indicates the association. She also denounces the fact that this “garbage cargo” on board which the bulls were transported, the Nader-A, which flies the Togolese flag. has been in business for 45 years.
“We have no information that would indicate a particular problem” on this subject, the ministry replied on Wednesday, specifying that the boat is approved and “has been the subject of an inspection on departure”.
Why this is a recurring problem
This is not the first time that animals have had to be slaughtered after not being able to disembark at their original destination. In 2021, two ships from Spain were unable to dock in their destination port due to suspected bluetongue. They had spent several months wandering at sea before the cattle were killed on their return to Spain. Again, the two ships were particularly old: 54 and 56 years.
“It is a problem that keeps repeating itself and which concerns all European countries, denounces Adrienne Bonnet. France, as the leading exporter of cattle in the European Union, would have every interest in adopting the measures that we are advocating”. Among the measures requested by the association, the installation of a device recording the temperatures on board livestock vessels, a strengthening of penalties in the event of a regulatory violation during the transport of animals and in the long term the replacement of the transport of live animals outside the EU by that of carcasses.
In January, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on member states to respect animal welfare during transport and to favor the transport of meat rather than live animals.