2013: UK live export investigations

In the summer of 2013 Compassion in World Farming undertook two investigations trailing sheep  on their long journeys from the UK to France and Germany.

UK to France

Northern England to Western France:
Estimated journey distance: 630 miles | Estimated journey time: 18 hours

  • “The sound of the sheep bleating woefully and the stench from the soiled truck were overwhelming. Hundreds of exhausted, sickly and stressed sheep crammed together, some panting heavily."

    Sheep crammed together
  • “This was one of the animal transport lorries that we trailed during the investigation. Industrial transporters like these may carry as many as 650 sheep at a time."

    Transport lorry
  • "No animal should have to suffer like this. We simply have to end this ruthless trade.”

    Crowded sheep
  • “This is a ‘fattening’ barn – the sad fate that faces many British animals after they are exported. these animals will be kept indoors in this barn for up to a month before being sent for slaughter."

    Fattening barn

The sheep we trailed were transported an estimated 18 hours from the Sheffield area to the Deux-Sèvres region of France, where they were unloaded into dingy barns to live out the last month of their lives shut away from sunlight and grass. Compassion’s CEO, Philip Lymbery, says:

Many people will be absolutely astonished to know this is going on. British sheep belong in our fields and on our hillsides. The fact that these sheep could be spending a quarter of their lives in squalid sheds, is indicative of the sheer lack of common sense inherent in the live export trade.

The 500 sheep travelled a distance of almost 650 miles in July in temperatures in the high 20˚Cs. Animals were packed together so tightly that they could not all lie down at the same time. Philip adds:

The despicable irony is that these sheep must have gone past dozens of slaughterhouses on their journey. Sheffield alone has three slaughterhouses approved for sheep slaughter. Farm animals should be reared and slaughtered as close as possible to the farm on which they are born. Instead these sheep are taken hundreds of miles to a foreign country in very hot conditions to be fattened in sheds.

UK to Germany

Southern England to Southern Germany:
Estimated journey distance: 590 miles | Estimated journey time: 23 hours

  • “I will always remember this sheep. Her head hanging low and eyes closed up with conjunctivitis. She looked so alone and I wished I could have taken her away from that horrible situation."

    Conjunctivitis
  • “This sheep was coughing relentlessly, she just couldn’t seem to clear her chest. I wondered how long she’d been like this and how long she’d have to wait for a space to lie down and rest.”

    Sheep looking up

The sheep we trailed to Germany travelled for over 23 hours to reach their final destination – a slaughterhouse just south of Stuttgart in Germany. We gathered the necessary evidence to show that the sheep travelled for so long without rest that the driver had broken EU laws on transporting livestock. However, no significant action was taken against the transporter by the competent authority. The sheep were crammed into trucks and showing visible signs of sickness and exhaustion during their journey. One sheep was seen coughing violently for minutes at a time. The vehicle’s water system was not working correctly – limiting the amount of water available to these animals, who were being transported at the height of summer.

UK live animal exports must stop

Every year, tens of thousands of calves and sheep are subjected to this awful ordeal.

Find out how you can take action

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