by Becci Pigeon
The consumption of animals is responsible for COVID-19 (and the vast majority of infectious disease) and yet our desire for their flesh, eggs and milk continues to put us all at risk of continuing its spread. While almost everybody is staying home as much as possible in an attempt to ‘flatten the curve’ (the obvious exceptions being medical staff and key workers like postal carriers and grocery store employees), there are some people who travel freely in groups, crossing borders again and again. These are the multitude of workers involved in live transport of animals destined for slaughter: drivers, vessel employees, animal handlers, veterinarians and the loading and unloading crews.
Increasing travel restrictions and border rules which change repeatedly throughout the day mean that animals in lorries are queued at borders for even longer than usual, which is a violation of the EU Commission’s own welfare transport regulations. Some trucks are taking a full 18 hours to cross. Members of Animal Angels were told by one driver at the Turkey-Bulgaria border that it took him three hours to travel just 300 metres with the animals he was transporting, and the situation has likely gotten worse since then.
For the animals, the suffering doesn’t end when they arrive at their destination. Recent secret footage from early April showed male calves born to the Irish dairy industry being kicked and beaten by workers in France after having been in transport without food for at least 23 hours. (Most male dairy calves in the UK are simply shot, but many from Northern Ireland and Ireland are exported elsewhere for low-welfare veal–even during a pandemic.) ‘…when they arrive, they’re desperate for milk,’ explained an activist with campaign group Eyes on Animals. ‘The workers get impatient because they won’t leave the feeders. Calves were kicked and whacked repeatedly, particularly around the head with sticks. We saw one collapse, either because of the brutality or because of exhaustion and hunger. Or both.’
In mid-March, 37 animal advocacy groups around the world signed a letter asking the European Commission to suspend live export while the crisis continues. You can read it here.
As Gabriel Paun of Animals International explained:
‘Farm animals are either a source or messenger of zoonotic diseases. Suspending live export and trading meat instead will ensure both food security and public health. With the current border crisis, the EU commission breaks its own transport regulations by deliberately putting animals through planned and unnecessary suffering. On top of that they expose all the animal handlers, truck drivers and others to risk.’ 
And yet it continues, and we are all the worse for it.