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The suffering of the calves

Live Shipments is the conventional term for the long-distance transportation of livestock to be fattened and slaughtered in the country of destination. Although most of the journey is by ship or even plane, much of it is by truck, as described below.

Cattle are herd animals, and research by the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture has found that they are able to recognize and remember 70 members of their herd. Each herd has a clear and fixed hierarchy and every animal knows his or her place in it. When the animals are sold at the start of their journey, they embark on a torturous trail of mental anguish in addition to the physical suffering. The young calves are cruelly torn away from their mothers and separated from other calves who have become their friends. The mother, who has just lost her calf, is expected to go through such separations every few months, until she too is sold off to the meat industry.

When the calves leave their home in Australia or one of the exporting European countries, they are moved several times from truck to holding pen and from holding pen to truck. The social groups are constantly changing so each time they have to fight for their place in the social order, along with hundreds of other calves like themselves, already in a heightened state of anxiety. During the first part of the journey, they are loaded onto trucks, deliberately crowded to save money and so that they'll hold each other up when the truck is moving. The journey from the farm of origin to the port may last hours, if not days. Sometimes, if not always, they will be given food and water, but due to overcrowding, some of them won't be able to get near enough and may go for days without eating or drinking. Prolonged hunger and thirst lead to tension among the young calves that may end in a fight. At this point, calves from dozens or even hundreds of different farms will be transferred to transit stations, which serve as a kind of quarantine facility, before they are loaded onto ships. Once again, they will spend several days in a place where they have to establish their new social status. All the while that they are trapped on trucks, they are exposed to the elements. Shipments continue regardless of the weather, be in freezing winters in Europe or scorching summers in Australia. 

Once on board the ships – usually the longest stage of their journey, where yet again the calves have to establish a new social order – they are given desalinated seawater and small rations of food, which meet only 70% of their daily requirements. Once again, the ships are overcrowded. According to our calculations and official reports, on many of the voyages, each calf is confined to an area of 100 square centimeters. Due to the intense overcrowding, the calves are forced to wallow in their own and each other's excrement for the entire journey. And it is difficult for them to get to their food and water under these conditions

Tens of thousands of animals die on these journeys every year, and this is not counting those who die in quarantine, where mortality is also high. When the young calves are transferred from one station to the next, they sometimes stop and refuse to move on to the next unfamiliar place where they are meant to go. The workers, whose job is to keep them moving as quickly as possible, act violently towards them, beating them with their hands, kicking them with their feet, stabbing them, using electric prods and deliberately breaking their bones. The final aspect of suffering, which we haven't mentioned until now, concerns only the calves shipped from Australia. Because it is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons in that country – the largest exporter of live shipments in the world – are the opposite to those in the eastern Mediterranean, and calves shipped from Australia in winter arrive in the scorching Mediterranean heat, while still wrapped in their thick, warm winter coats.

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