28. July 2020

Belgium | Flemish Region | Transport of unweaned calves to France

The calves have not been supplied with milk replacer during transport. They show visible signs of hunger by mooing loudly and biting on the bars of the truck.

Our team is observing the unloading of German calves in an assembly centre in Southern France.

Our team is investigating in Belgium to monitor the transport of unweaned calves. The term “unweaned” is used to describe calves up to the age of eight weeks since these young animals are still reliant on milk.

On our first investigation day, we covertly observe how livestock trucks from Germany are delivering calves to a Belgian assembly centre in the afternoon. The young animals are unloaded by the workers and moved into the barn. Later, we document the arrival of two empty livestock trucks with Dutch license plates. In the evening, calves are loaded onto these two trucks. They are leaving the assembly centre heading south. Our team follows the transporters covertly.

It takes the truck drivers twelve hours to transport the calves to their destination – another assembly centre in Southern France. The calves were transported non-stop until the early morning hours except for two quick stops for a driver change. However, according to the EU transport regulation, these unweaned animals should have been supplied with milk replacer after nine hours of transport. This did not happen. When the calves arrive, they are exhausted and roar loudly. They are showing visible signs of hunger by biting on the side bars of the truck.

The operator of the assembly centre forbids us to directly access the premises. Our team can only observe the unloading of the animals from an adjacent street. The ear tags of the young calves’ proof that they came from all over Germany: Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and Lower Saxony. It is unclear on which journey the calves are sent from here next. But we are certain that some of the animals might go to Spain. We will have to further investigate this assembly centre in the future. Now we will report the exceeding of the permitted transport time of the young animals to the responsible authorities.