03. June 2021

Spain | Port of Cartagena | Investigation: Live transports by sea

Vessel “FREEDOM” loading European animals destined for export to Lebanon.

Port of Cartagena: Exhausted bulls waiting inside the trucks before being loaded into the vessel.

Unprofessional handling of a worker: The sheep is lifted by its fleece. This is a painful and forbidden practice according to the EU regulation on the protection of animals during transport.

Our team is investigating live exports by sea from Cartagena together with two MEPs, and our partner organisation, Animals International.

Cattle are forcefully driven up the ramps under the use of electric prods.

Spanish heifers arrive in dirty trucks to the port. They are covered with their own feces.

In the beginning of June, our investigation team is travelling to Cartagena in Spain. Cartagena is one of the main EU exit ports for live animals that are sent via sea to non-European countries.  

In 2018, an audit carried out by the EU Commission discovered various animal welfare violations during the loading of animals from trucks onto vessels in Cartagena. The aim of our investigation is to find out whether the situation for the animals has improved since the EU-audit. This time our team is joined by our partner organisation, Animals International, and two Members of the European Parliament, Thomas Waitz, and Caroline Roose. Both parliamentarians are members of the committee of inquiry on animal transport (ANIT). This committee is investigating alleged violations in the application of EU law on the protection of animals during transport and related operations within and outside the EU.

After our arrival, we observe that our complaints in 2018, and 2020, were partially successful. The port of Cartagena finally installed some shading inside the port. However, the sun protection is only available for ten 10 vehicles at the time. All other animals on surplus vehicles are still suffering from the blazing sun during the long waiting hours in the port. 

The first loading we observe is the loading of the livestock carrier OMEGA Star: We document how the workers repeatedly use electric prods to move the cattle up the ramp to the ship entrance. No part of the body is spared. Moreover, document the brutal handling of sheep: big groups are forcefully driven up the ramp from the truck into the vessel. This rushed procedure makes it impossible for official veterinarians to detect animals that are unfit for transport.  

The second loading is the one of the livestock carrier FREEDOM. The vessel will be exporting bulls and heifers to Lebanon. We observe hundreds of animals waiting inside trucks. They are covered in their own faces and are already exhausted from the road transport to the port. Again, we observe how the workers use electric prods on sensitive body parts. Too many animals are pushing up the ramps in panic which leads to a block of the vessel entrance.  

At the end of our investigation, we are disappointed that nothing has improved since our first investigation in Cartagena four years ago. The Spanish authorities still ignore most of our complaints about the numerous animal welfare violations that have been documented by our teams since 2018.  Our latest investigation has demonstrated yet again how animals suffer even before they are exported by sea. Furthermore, the shortcomings identified by the EU-Commission during the loading procedures in 2018 still prevail: The animals are still being mistreated by workers and the responsible port veterinarians fail to fulfil their task of guaranteeing that the animals are fit for transport. We will report our findings to the competent authorities in Spain and the EU-Commission. We will continue to expose these cruel transport practices and demand an end of live exports, especially to third countries.