Warning: Distressing Content
Secret footage captured by activists showed control post workers kicking, beating and violently shoving calves as young as two weeks old.
The video was shared as part of an investigation co-authored by French organisation L214 and Eyes on Animals, which works to ensure farm animals are given the protection they deserve according to European legislation.
Campaigners trailed 23 Irish livestock trucks to the French control post at Tollevast from March 14 – March 17, inspecting the conditions the animals were exposed to.
Take a look at the heartbreaking footage below. Warning: Distressing Content:
L214 explain that in the dairy industry, cows give birth to a calf each year. Male calves are often separated from their mother at birth and sold for a low price to be raised for veal meat.
Over 100,000 calves each year are exported to mainland Europe, undergoing an 18 hour ferry crossing to France, where they are handled brutally. They then continue on their long journey to Italy, Spain or the Netherlands where they are raised under intensive conditions and kept always indoors before being sent to the slaughterhouse.
Under EU law, the animals are supposed to find rest and feed at the French control post, but instead they can be seen being dragged around and thrashed by the workers with batons.
Some of the young calves were so severely mistreated that they collapsed in pain.
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.
The Netherlands is the driving force behind this transport and Ireland is the main supplier. Both countries should be taking responsibility for the welfare of these calves.
Another video taken at the control post in March reportedly showed one worker throwing a calf to the floor and repeatedly jumping up and down on it. He is said to have been arrested by French police, who are also investigating the violence seen in the video.
The unweaned calves are desperate for a drink after their journey, but farm workers face pressure to hurry the process due to huge volumes of livestock arriving and leaving each day.
Lesley Moffat, the director of Eyes on Animals, explained this is a recipe for cruelty.
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Yesterday we checked on a few veal farms. What I still find most disturbing about this industry is the way calves are kept indoors their entire lives, on barren slatted floors with nothing to do, as if they were nothing more than inanimate objects. The farm buildings are surrounded by green fields…completely empty. Oh how lovely it would be to see these fields full of calves running around, lying in the sun, exploring the novel outdoors… The dairy sector and veal sector sure have a long way to go to create better lives for calves. #eyesonanimals, #animalwelfare, #veal, #dairy
She told the Guardian:
Unfortunately, this sort of mistreatment is really common.
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.
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.
It’s heartbreaking to see the innocent animals being treated so disgustingly.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.