In 1997, German Police stopped a Polish horse transport lorry which was overcrowded on a highway near Hanover. Their heads tethered tightly to the bars of the lorry, the terrified animals were covered with blood and their condition was so appalling that ten had to be killed there and then by the side of the road. The event was witnessed by Mrs. Hiltrud Schroeder, the ex-wife of the prime minister of Lower Saxony. She stated: “I used to believe that horses were incapable of crying. I was terribly wrong. I saw them crying with my own eyes” (10)
One of Poland’s best-known actors, Daniel Olbrychski, who is a horse lover, confirmed this tale of crying horses and told Viva! that he had seen it personally in dejected and stressed horses on a lorry at the Polish border.
The German group, Animals Angels has tracked the horse transporters more closely than anyone else. These accounts are unashamedly emotional and are all the more powerful for that.
“An overloaded transporter holding 70 donkeys is in a very bad condition. As the truck approaches, we see that one donkey has hanged itself in its tethers. Another is lying on the ground motionless and severely injured. A team follows the transporter and calls the police, who pull the transporter over - only the veterinarian takes his time getting there.
“The drivers are annoyed. Jürgen stands in front of the transporter and prevents it from driving away. He stands there for over three hours, in the middle of a cold night, in the pouring rain - a foreigner with two overly tired and unfriendly drivers and a load of half-dead donkeys. The veterinarian finally arrives.
“The donkeys were initially intended for fattening and were then supposed to be brought to the slaughterhouse in Sardinia. They have to be unloaded. The dead donkey is no longer on the truck. One of the severely injured animals is lying on the floor, covered with the others' faeces. Jürgen insists that this donkey be put to sleep. The veterinarian tells him something about loss of value and meat prices. Jürgen is able to convince him to put the animal out of its misery.
“He determines that we must pay 500 DM for the donkey and 150 DM for the disposal of the corpse. This is a language that leaves no room for pain and the immeasurable suffering of these animals. We pay. The team decides to buy freedom for three donkeys. “We are successful and cry for joy. On the fourth Advent, three Romanian donkeys begin the journey
to their new home - the Black Forest. It's already Christmas
Pia - Animals’ Angels Germany
“On Monday, October 11, 1999, the following died in the
Nuova Valriso slaughterhouse in Caglieri, Sardinia: Ginger, Joe, Sue, Mary, Bonnie, Clyde, Carlos, Goldie, Pia, Di, Rasta, Ronja, Flo, Kim, Bob, Silver, Pedro, Winnie and Max. We journeyed towards death together for five days and four and a half nights - 108 hours. Nineteen horses that had worked hard all their
lives, that earned a living together with their owners, are
“Jonathan and I gave these 19 horses names as well - but not Lithuanian ones this time. We couldn't do it; it just didn't seem right. These 19 beautiful, patient, loving animals were sent to their deaths for money - by their Lithuanian owners. And we were told there, at the start of the journey, that this business would never be given up, that the money was needed because there is not enough work.
“They all had personalities, their own character traits that we got to know over the course of time. There were jokers among them and also very sad creatures who bore all of their knowledge in their eyes. And some even had to part with their lives simply because of their owners' stupidity. Clyde had to die because his owner could no longer handle him. He believed he was bad when in fact he was one of the friendliest of animals, who always longed to be petted and gently nibbled on my fingers.
“This animal death transport was supposedly run under the best possible conditions. They wanted to prove to us that there are no problems. Six veterinarians were present during loading, none of them had any complaints. The drivers did their best to transport the animals to their destination with care. And despite all this, it was very clear even here, that it is impossible to transport animals over such a long distance without suffering and pain.”
Heike - Animals’ Angels Germany
"She is up there on the ramp, over there at the Polish border. She is a young mare. Her head is draped protectively across two younger foals, who crowd against her anxiously. I’m standing at the gate, looking at the three of them, filled with compassion. She notices me and comes across to me. Why is it that, sometimes, individuals step right out of this never-ending caravan of victims and march right into my heart and soul?
“Time is up, she has to be on her way to death. All the others march along willingly, but she turns around and comes back to me. The workman who has to put her aboard the truck, can
barely handle her. She is taken by the mane and pulled into the vehicle, then she cuts loose and comes back to me again.
“She is tempted with hay. Once more she comes back. Just when they have almost succeeded in making her part of the death transport, she turns around a fourth time and comes towards me. Her eyes are asking: ‘Why?’
“Well, why? I want to help free her from this death march - no chance. She is neither hurt nor disabled and healthy animals have enough stamina for this transport to the slaughterhouse. The only salvation lies in a lack of strength. One last time she takes flight away from the loading ramp towards me. One last time a workman takes hold of her and manhandles her aboard the truck. One last look from the mare's huge eyes..."
Heike - Animals’ Angels Germany
"There are moments for me, too, when I ask myself why am I submitting myself to all these terrible sights while the animal-and-meat-Mafia do whatever they please? And then I force myself to think of all the helpless animals being transported and I know that I simply have to carry on.
“I follow every animal transport that I happen to meet on the road. And I have often noticed that the drivers decelerate or turn into a lay-by to have a look at who is following them. As soon as a car accompanies an animal truck for any length of time, the drivers know what is up.
“The animals would be much worse off if it were not for
us! Even if we cannot alter the animals' fate, we have to be with them!"
Conny - Animals’ Angels Germany
“At 2:10 p.m. my horse died. At the end I was all alone with her, she had her head on my shoulder and we waited together. When she was supposed to be taken to the slaughter room she did not want to go, she was reluctant and I led her part of the way. This look, these eyes, this fear, I will never be able to forget it. I feel so guilty! She trusted me and I betrayed her.
The slaughterer felt sorry for her and for me. He was very kind to her, he killed her so quickly that she probably barely felt it. He gave me a strand of her mane to remember her by. Her blood was sticking to the ends...
The poor bull with the broken hind leg also died very quickly. I filmed both of them and feel guilty for that reason too; they couldn’t even die alone. I will never forget these last nine days - they were the worst that I have ever experienced.
Thomas - Animals’ Angels Germany