An EonA team conducted an unannounced visit to Leeuwarden cull-cow market this late afternoon. We have been regularly visiting and trying to work with this market since 2004. Back then we regularly saw tethered cows tangled up in their ropes, downer cows being dragged by chains into small trucks, lactating cows dripping milk and not being milked, injured animals being electric prodded, slippery raceways and steep unloading ramps where cows collpased and no water available for the animals.
It is still a livestock market where dairy cows that have been culled (for reasons of low production, low fertility, claw problems etc) are sold and thus part of a system that causes additional stress, but we must admit that it is a world of difference compared to before ! The market managers also admitted they are much happier and proud of these changes. The floor is covered in anti-slip rough asphalt, the loading ramps are much less steep, none of the cows are tied up anymore (all housed loosely in group pens), every single pen has a good-quality and clean water bowl, rough treatment and downers no longer accepted at all, and a market vet who comes at night to examine, and eventually euthanize, cows that are sick or in pain or have serious trouble walking. The ceiling is high and large ventilators hang above to prevent heat stress or stuffy air in the summer. The floor is covered in straw. We were concerned about the fitness of 3 cows and noted down their ear tags. The market master joined us in checking on them and 2 of them were fitter than we first thought (one had a swollen claw but was able to walk well, the other had appeared very nervous but had calmed down). The third indeed was laming. She could walk but put very little pressure on one of her legs. By early the next day she could walk well again. She was loaded onto a truck destined for a local (national) abattoir, fortunately not exported on a long-distance journey.
Despite showing up out of the blue we were welcomed in without suspicion and allowed to walk everywhere on our own. We think this is the way it should be – transparent and respectful and together work towards a world with less animal suffering. We would like to congratulate them for this positive and modern attitude.