Netherlands continues to send injured and sick cows to Flemish slaughterhouses

The Netherlands has been trying to keep non-transportable livestock within its borders for years. However, according to an investigation by Knack and De Groene Amsterdammer, injured and sick cows still find their way to Flemish slaughterhouses via the 'Belgian route'.

In 2022, Belgian slaughterhouses processed around 25.83 million animals per month, including animals from the Netherlands. The exact number of animals that crossed the Dutch-Belgian border for slaughter is not known. However, government authorities confirm that animals sometimes arrive at Belgian slaughterhouses in dubious conditions, as evidenced by e-mail exchanges.

One cow was already dead on the truck; two were stunned and slaughtered on the truck

"The images speak for themselves," a Flemish official from the Animal Welfare Service wrote to his counterpart at the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), the agency responsible for controlling the export of live animals, on 23 November 2022. "One cow was already dead on the truck; two were stunned and slaughtered on the truck."

The accompanying photographs show two thin, dead cattle lying in their excrement. "Yes, unfortunately," replied the Dutch official. "That's what I meant when I said the poorer cattle usually go to Belgium."

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Although European legislation prohibits member states from transporting sick or injured animals across borders, the Dutch cattle industry continues to dump unfit animals in Flemish slaughterhouses. These are often "worn-out cows", animals that have given birth to a calf every year to produce thousands of litres of milk. They are sent to the slaughterhouse after 5.5 years and around 28,000 litres of milk.

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Dutch authorities deny that sick animals are deliberately sent to Belgium. However, the organisation says it is possible that "occasionally, during an inspection, an animal slips through that should not have been approved. In such cases, it is never deliberate", it sounds.

Current EU legislation on animal welfare during transport came into force in 2005. The European Commission is reviewing EU animal welfare legislation as part of the EU's Farm to Fork strategy. The EU executive aims to bring the legislation up to date with the latest scientific knowledge, broaden its scope, facilitate enforcement and ultimately ensure a higher level of animal welfare.


#FlandersNewsService | Illustration shows the slaughterhouse in Zottegem, Monday 12 September 2016. © BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE

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