Thousands and thousands of unweaned calves and young cattle are sent on a horrendously long journey from Ireland to France every year. The ferry journey from Rosslare and Dublin to Cherbourg takes 18 - 20 hours. On top of this is the journey time to the port, loading and unloading time and the continuation of the journey in France before the trucks reach the designated control post where the animals can be unloaded and rested. This can add considerable time to the journey before they get a chance to rest and feed. Moreover, after the rest period the calves are reloaded onto the trucks and sent on to Spain or the Netherlands.
Calves cannot be fed without unloading, which is not possible whilst on board the ferry. As they are only two to three weeks old and unweaned they should be fed every eight to nine hours with warm milk and electrolytes. Without this they struggle to regulate their body temperature which makes them susceptible to illness such as pneumonia. Furthermore their immune systems are not fully developed at this young age making them even more at risk of becoming ill.
All transport is likely to be stressful to animals and risks injury, suffering and the spread of disease – particularly when the animals are so young and the risk of catching illnesses is far higher. The EU's Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare has stated "after a few hours of transport welfare tends to become poorer as journey length increases." The journey times these young animals have to endure are 18 - 20 hours just on the ferry alone. The overall journey from Ireland to the Netherlands can be over 50 hours.
A 2007 review of the scientific literature commissioned by Compassion in World Farming was carried out by Dr Claire Weeks of Bristol University. It concludes "Scientific evidence indicates that young calves are not well adapted to cope with transport. Their immune systems are not fully developed and they are not able to control their body temperature well, thus they are susceptible to both heat and cold stress. . . Therefore transport should be avoided where possible, particularly as morbidity and mortality following transport can be high."
We call on Stena Line and Irish Ferries to stop profiting from this inhumane industry by allowing their ferries to carry young calves and cattle destined for fattening and slaughter on the continent.