More than 780 French cattle leaving Sète have been held at sea since September 5. The Algerian authorities refused to let them disembark, they must now return to France where they will be slaughtered.
Europe’s leading beef producer, France exports 1.5 million live cattle every year, particularly to Spain, Italy and Algeria. Intended for fattening or slaughter, these animals are transported under conditions regularly set out by animal protection associations. A ludicrous affair, revealed on Tuesday by the NGO Welfarm, sheds light on the conditions of transport of these animals intended for export. Since September 5, more than 780 bulls have been stranded off Algiers, the Algerian authorities having refused to let them disembark for health reasons.
Leaving on September 3 from the port of Sète, the cattle must be sent back there by the weekend to finally be euthanized. At the origin of the imbroglio, “differences in interpretation on the statute” of three animals, explained the Ministry of Agriculture during a press briefing on Wednesday. While these three cattle were vaccinated against a disease, infectious bovine rhinotracheitis, documents accompanying their export certificate showed that they were positive for this disease. “There is no failure of the French authorities on the export certificates”, hammered the ministry, specifying that “the animals are healthy”. “Following fruitless discussions, it was decided to bring the boat back to France”, he continued. They will however be slaughtered there, because they were fed with Algerian hay during their wait off Algiers. However, another disease, foot-and-mouth disease, is currently present in Algeria. Even if the risk is minimal, the authorities will want to avoid any risk of introducing foot-and-mouth disease into France.
“Catastrophic hygienic conditions”
“Exporting animals on garbage cargo ships: a common practice at the port of Sète”, denounces the NGO Welfarm, which accuses the authorities of having “approved this transport of animals in defiance of health requirements” and affirms that several animals would have died and that “the corpses as well as the excrement of the animals were not evacuated. Hygiene conditions are therefore catastrophic.” Asked about this, the ministry said “not having any specific information” but that the veterinary services will inspect the animals on their arrival in France.
While the NGO calls for an end to the export of live animals, the ministry replies that this “remains an important part of our economy” and recalls that a revision of the texts will take place at European level in 2023. On this occasion, “discussions could take place to discuss changes in the regulations”. However, the conditions for transporting live animals, particularly by sea, are regularly denounced. In 2021, 2,600 cattle had been at sea for three months, Welfarm recalled. Spanish cattle, exported on board two ships bound for Turkey and Libya, had been turned back on arrival and had wandered for weeks in the Mediterranean in deplorable conditions.