Investigating live animal exports
All this week we will be reporting on the global trade in live farm animals, which despite welfare and disease concerns, has quadrupled in size over the past 50 years. Nearly 2 billion animals a year are now trucked and shipped around the world on journeys that can take weeks.
We’ll be exploring why this trade continues, the risk it poses to disease spread and why the EU has become such a key player.
We started the series reporting on hundreds of thousands of unwanted male dairy calves due to be born in Ireland this year, where the choice may be between live export or disposing on-farm.
We’ve also reported on the huge revenues generated by the industry, with the Middle East a key market. In 1988, the global trade in all live animals was worth $716m (£548m); by 2017 that had risen to $21bn. In 2016, Saudi Arabia alone imported almost $1bn worth of live animals, mostly sheep.
If you have some expertise in this field and would like to contribute to our investigation, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
News from around the world
More than 800 million animals are estimated to have been killed in Australian bushfires, which have burned 10 million hectares (40,000 square miles) of land in the country. The Australian government expects that 100,000 cattle and sheep could be lost as a result of the bushfires. At least 13,120 farm animals have been euthanised or confirmed dead as a result of bushfires in New South Wales.
An outbreak of the highly contagious H5N8 bird flu has been rapidly spreading across eastern Europe this month. Outbreaks have been reported in the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. French authorities culled millions of birds in an attempt to contain the last outbreak of the H5N8 virus in Europe in 2017. In China, an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N6 bird flu has been reported in swans in the western Xinjiang region of the country.
A reported 180 sheep rescued from the Queen Hind cargo ship that capsized as they were being transported from Romania to Saudi Arabia are due to be resettled. More than 14,000 sheep onboard the ship died. Animal welfare groups leading the rescue of the sheep opposed sending the surviving animals on to Saudi Arabia for slaughter and are in discussions to gain custody of the sheep and resettle them in animal sanctuaries in Romania.
One of Europe’s largest meat producers, the Netherlands-based Vion, has said it expects the numbers of pigs and cattle in western Europe to decline by 20% over the next decade. It also expects meat consumption to fall by 1–2% a year over the same period.
Dutch food safety inspectors still allegedly encounter pigs drowning in hot water having not been properly killed, according to documents obtained by an animal rights group. Campaigners have called for independent camera surveillance on slaughter lines in the Netherlands. In England, all abattoirs are required to have CCTV installed.
A farming minister in the German state of Lower Saxony has called for a meat tax to be introduced in the country. Meat in Germany is currently taxed at a reduced rate of 7% instead of 19%. Former environment minister Michael Gove has previously rejected the idea of introducing a meat tax in the UK.