Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Journey to Death

Introduction

A trade in Polish horses, transported live to Italy and France by road where they are slaughtered for meat, has developed without the knowledge of the mass of Polish people. It is being carried out in their name by their government but without their approval. It is a trade which causes appalling suffering and has grown and prospered only by ignoring existing legislation and veterinary controls. Despite this illegality and immorality, it operates with the connivance and encouragement of the Polish authorities.

The Italian taste for horse, foal and donkey meat has encouraged a world-wide trade in both the living bodies and the frozen flesh of these animals. Meat is imported into Italy frozen from Argentina, USA and Australia, amongst other countries. Animals are exported live from Eastern and Western Europe to satisfy the demand for ‘fresh’ meat.

The majority of the live export trade is from Eastern Europe - and in particular Poland with a lesser trade from Lithuania. It amounts to about 100,000 animals a year, of which about 87,000 originate in Poland, which is, therefore, clearly the key to this international trade in misery.

The conditions in which the animals are exported have been well documented through video footage and eye-witness accounts. Many of the allegations are given credence by Poland’s own bureaucracy which has documented the almost complete absence of controls on trucks leaving the country and on those transiting through it. In the EU, also, there has been a consistent lack of interest in live animal exports, a refusal to police them, a confusion of laws and a failure to enforce those laws that do exist. And this has been the case over many years.

The outcome is that horses have virtually no protection from the moment they are bought in Polish or Lithuanian markets until death, many days, many kilometres and many countries later. The laws governing their deaths also appear to be ignored so that even in their final moments they are subjected to unlawful and unnecessary fear and brutality.

Transport times for the journeys to France, Italy, and Sardinia can last as long as five days, involve ferry crossings and they cover in excess of 2,000 kilometres. The abuses that have been identified appear to be commonplace and are allowed to continue simply because the relevant authorities, including veterinarians, in both Eastern Europe and the EU, close their eyes to them. The importance of satisfying markets and earning foreign currency has almost entirely superseded humanitarian and animal welfare considerations.

Abuses include failure to protect ill, injured and unfit animals from being exported; forcing seriously injured animals to continue their journey; brutally beating them during loading and unloading; failing to provide veterinary inspection either before, during or after the journey; mixing animals of different sizes in the same truck, ensuring that the smaller run the risk of injury by the larger; using old and unsuitable vehicles; overloading; ignoring rest, feeding and watering times; tethering animals too tightly by their heads to the sides of the trucks; failing to remove dung and urine from the truck; and lengthening journey times in order to avoid what few border controls exist, particularly in Austria.

It is difficult to imagine a longer, more comprehensive or more barbaric list of abuses nor a more detailed catalogue of human’s inhumanity to other, sentient and defenceless creatures. It is, of course, not the first time living cargoes have been transported across Europe in ‘cattle trucks’, in cruel and filthy conditions, to face death at journey’s end. Even when it was human beings who were the victims, a catalogue of deceit and excuses were used to justify the slaughter. The response even then for many was to suspend belief, avoid criticism, accept the assurances of authority and bow to the ‘inevitable’. This is what is still happening and it is part of the same continuum which promotes all abuse - animal or human. Viva! refuses to accept this inevitability.