The live horse export trade proceeds on the basis of illegality and closed eyes. What drives it is the desire for profit and a wish to earn foreign currency. The immorality and undemocratic nature of the trade is clear for all to see. Despite the failure of every organisation and company to comply with any of the laws which supposedly govern the trade, prosecutions are unheard of. This is concerted and co-ordinated, legitimised animal abuse.
The reason why there is no implementation and enforcement of existing laws is that to do so would render the trade uneconomic. It is allowed to continue illegally because it could not continue legally. This is not an accusation levelled just at Poland but at all the EU countries which participate in the trade, in particular Belgium, France and Italy.
What is particularly disturbing is that there is no official attempt made to monitor the trade and this important function has been left to a few charities and animal presure groups, operating without co-operation from the authorities, with few resources and few staff. Transporter drivers try to shake them off when they are followed and lairage owners refuse to co-operate with them. It is therefore extraordinary that between us we have uncovered such widescale abuse by tracking and monitoring just a few of the many thousand of trucks that ply Europe each year. If so many abuses can be found in so few examples, its implications for the entire trade are extremely disturbing.
The desire for short-term profit can never justify such extreme cruelty to animals. We believe the majority of the Polish people will be shocked when they realise the full extent of the horror which befalls their horses - animals which have served and helped people all their working lives and which were integral to the development of humankind. How has such a deep respect been transformed into such large-scale abuse?
We believe there is little point in amending the law or adding new laws as they will simply remain unpoliced and ignored, just as existing laws are ignored. We believe there is only one effective way for the Polish people to express their disgust at that is by calling for an immediate ban on the transport of horses for meat.
Poland is seeking entry to the European Union and the common standards which govern it. Accepting a more Western philosophy of life does not necessitate accepting aggressive capitalism, a consumer-dominated culture and the pre-eminence of transnational corporations and the profit motive above all else. These concepts have created enormous problems in the West, even greater problems globally amongst impoverished nations and have to be resisted if humanitarian care and concern are to have a place in the country’s future. Just at the point when the profit ethos is being imported wholesale into Poland, many people in the West are rejecting it because it is increasingly failing our societies.
Any system which is prepared to mistreat animals on such a vast scale - through factory farming, production-line slaughter and long distance transportation - will be equally willing to exploit people.
Viva! is absolutely clear and unequivocal about its position, which is based on simple morality and complex science. It is a vegetarian and vegan organisation which believes that livestock production and the preoccupation with meat-based diets is one of the greatest problems facing the globe. Environmental degradation, impoverishment of the developing world and human disease in Western Europe all have roots in meat or the production of fodder used to produce it. These commodities are now the engine of world trade and it is no coincidence that a multinational corporation has already set up in Poland and controls the meat trade.
The outcome of industrialising animals has been the relegation of feeling, sentient creatures to nothing more than mere commodities - pigs which spend their entire lives confined in concrete slums or metal crates; egg laying hens confined five to a cage the size of microwave oven; broiler chickens, ducks, turkeys and other poultry crammed tens of thousands to a single shed; cattle imprisoned in filthy feed lots. The horse trade is simply another aspect of this abuse of animals - a trade excused by politicians, supported by vets, facilitated by private companies and encouraged by consumers.
We call upon the Polish people to make a stand for compassion and humanity and demand an end to this abhorrent trade in horses as a first step. We call on them to resist the imposition of factory farming and other forms of animal abuse as a second step. And thirdly, we urge them to move towards a cruelty-free way of living which does not exploit animals and which offers hope of a sustainable future to a world in accelerating crisis.
Albert Schweitzer sums up the situation perfectly:
“Nobody is allowed to close his or her eyes and to pretend that they cannot see the suffering. Nobody can relieve themselves of the weight of responsibility. When an animal is badly treated; when the cry of animals dying of thirst in transports reaches no one; when slaughterhouses are filled with so much cruelty; when animals die in pain by unskilled hands for use in our kitchens; when animals suffer because of ruthless people, we all should be blamed... Respect for life requires us all to seek opportunities to help animals in every possible way, knowing as we do the scale of evil caused to animals by humans” (11).