In March 2022 Eyes on Animals (EonA) met with two big importers of unweaned Irish calves (2-3 weeks old): VanDrie Group and Pali Group. EonA initiated this meeting as the import of unweaned calves from Ireland involves serious violations of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2005. The feeding intervals for calves on this route are not respected, meaning that calves (at this age still completely dependent on milk) are transported without any food for a way too long, and illegal, period. It is no wonder the calf sector has a very high antibiotic use – 69,1 DDDA (defined daily dosage of antibiotics) for starter calves. This is because the immune system of a calf is at its lowest when they are 2-3 weeks of age, which is exactly the age when they are exported from Ireland to the Netherlands. Calves are given antibiotics upon arrival at veal farms (even third choice antibiotics) as without such treatment many of them would die from the horrendous stress they endured during these first few weeks of life.
During the meeting VanDrie (by far the biggest importer) and Pali Group promised to take serious action. Being one year later now, we unfortunately have to conclude that they failed to keep their promises:
- VanDrie and Pali did not yet publish a public statement disapproving the violations of the feeding intervals during the import of Irish calves.
- VanDrie and Pali did not yet conduct any visits of the calf auctions and control posts in Ireland and in France to make sure the way their calves are being handled and fed is improved. Van Drie and Pali argued that they unfortunately did not find the time yet to conduct these visits, but still have plans to do so.
- VanDrie and Pali have written to the Irish authorities about the ongoing violations on the feeding-intervals, which is slightly positive. However the Irish authorities continue to claim that there are no violations on this route, even though the European Commission, already back in 2020, confirmed there were.
EonA has been trailing Irish calves for years now. Together with L214 and Ethical Farming Ireland, we documented inherent violations to the feeding- and resting intervals. We also documented how calves were being abused at official control posts.
Despite all our efforts (alerting the authorities, involved parties from industry and the media) the Irish authorities continue to approve calf-exports to amongst others The Netherlands and Spain. Big parties, such as VanDrie and Pali, who continue to import calves are therefore actively and deliberately violating animal welfare requirements.