France | Château-Gontier | Transport of unweaned calves from France to Spain
Our team follows a long-distance transport from the calf market in Château-Gontier, France, to three different farms and an assembly centre in Catalonia, Spain. At the market, some pens are so crowded that only a few calves can lie down and rest. The majority of the pens have straw bedding, but several have no bedding at all and the calves have to lie on the concrete floor. We do not see any facilities to feed unweaned calves at this market and the handling by some breeders and workers is very rough. We see calves being hit and pulled by their ears and tails. The truck we follow had already calves on board early in the morning and loads more calves on the market at midday. They are between two and three weeks old. On arrival at the first farm during the night, the maximum transport time of 19 hours has already been exceeded for the calves that had been loaded first. During unloading at the assembly centre, we observe that a worker keeps hitting the exhausted animals. We find three dead calves in a container next to the assembly centre. At the next stop, the hungry calves are mooing and licking different parts of the trailer. They have been on board since the early morning of the previous day and have not received any liquid ever since. Upon arrival at the last farm at midday, the calves are exhausted from the long transport and one calf has died. Many have been confined inside the vehicle for more than 27 hours. The EU transport regulation is not workable in practice with regard to unweaned calves, as it is not possible to supply them with milk replacer or electrolytes on board the vehicle. We are going to send a complaint to the EU Commission with the aim of ending long-distance transport of unweaned calves.