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Exposed: EU live exports misery

News Section Icon Published 22/01/2013

Compassion has linked up with two European animal welfare organisations to call for an immediate end to live exports from the EU.

Investigators from Eyes on Animals, Animal Welfare Foundation and Compassion discovered widespread and persistent suffering in several investigations into the EU to non-EU trade.

Around three million cattle, pigs and sheep are exported each year to non-EU countries, according to figures from the EU's statistics site, Eurostat.

These animals are being sent to Turkey, the Middle East, North Africa, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Moldova and the former Yugoslavia. Some of the animals are exported for slaughter, others for fattening or breeding.

A film highlighting the suffering has been sent to Commissioner Tonio Borg, whose remit includes animal welfare. The animal welfare groups are calling on the Commission to end the trade and the EU's subsidy of it.

The Member States involved in these exports include Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, France, Spain, Greece, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

The investigators documented:

  • Animals suffering from extreme thirst
  • Cattle so hungry that they eat their filthy bedding
  • Sheep with legs trapped between the side of the truck and the floor for hours as paperwork is completed at the border (they cannot be helped before the documentation is complete)
  • Animals dying on the journey
  • Terrible cruelty at slaughter in the destination countries
  • Long delays at the border between the EU and Turkey that can lead to prolonged suffering
  • Sheep and cows giving birth in trucks at the border, despite EU law prohibiting the transport of heavily pregnant animals


Delays are a common feature in the trade and the Bulgarian (EU) border with Turkey proves a bottleneck that leads to animals stranded at the border. During the delays - which can last for hours, even days - the animals are often left on the trucks with inadequate food and water.

In one such case, investigators documented a truck of bulls that had come all the way from Latvia and were destined for slaughter in Iraq, an overall journey of around 4,600 km.

This truck was stuck at the EU-Turkey border for 6.5 days. Throughout this time the bulls were kept cooped up on the truck before being transported across Turkey for slaughter.


Part of the trade between the EU and third countries, the export of breeding cattle, is generously subsidised by European taxpayers.

The EU supports exporters to the tune of about €9 million a year to encourage the trade. On average, 80,000 cattle a year are exported with subsidies. It is ethically unacceptable for public money to be used to promote a trade that often results in suffering.

Shockingly, the Commission, rather than trying to end this unacceptable trade, is actively trying to increase it. The Commission's 2012 Progress Report on Turkey commends Turkey for having increased its imports of live cattle from the EU but also presses it to further expand these imports.

We are calling on the European Commission to halt the trade and, in the interim, stop subsidising any aspect of it.

The EU's live farm animal exports

  • Around 70,000 EU cattle a year are sent on lengthy journeys to the Lebanon, mainly from France and Spain.
  • France also exports about 30,000 cattle a year to Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
  • Lithuania and Hungary export around 50,000 cattle a year to Israel.
  • The EU sends over half a million sheep a year to Libya, mainly from Romania and Spain.
  • Over 600,000 pigs are sent each year from the EU to Russia, some all the way from Denmark and Germany.
  • Germany and the Netherlands send half a million pigs a year to the former Yugoslavia.
  • Germany also exports 100,000 pigs annually to Ukraine and Moldova.

What you can do

This evidence shows the clear need for an end to live exports from the EU to non-EU countries. Please act now to stop this trade by sending our document summarising the animal welfare problems involved, to the EU Commissioner, Dr Tonio Borg.


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