Philip Lymbery | The Death Ships
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The Death Ships

Dead sheep hanging from the Queen Hind in Midia | Credit: Animals International

 

Last Sunday (24th November), many of you will know that the livestock cargo ship, the QUEEN HIND with 14,600 sheep on board and heading for Saudi Arabia, developed a list, capsized and sank in Midia Port, Romania.  With the starboard resting on the bottom of the sea, half of the hull remained above water.  It was alleged that the ship was overloaded, but this has yet to be proven.

Queen Hind tragedy in Midia, lifeless sheep are seen floating in the sea | Credit: Animals International

Footage released by Animals International who have a partner organisation, ARCA/Letea Wild Horses, in the area appeared to show sheep piled up against the leaning side of the ship and the dead bodies of sheep floating around the ship, with no sign of rescue activity.

Two days after the disastrous sinking, local animal welfare rescuers were able to climb onto the vessel and found some sheep still alive.  These animals were found walking over the bodies of lifeless sheep, presumably crushed as the ship listed. New film footage released by Four Paws International showed a few additional survivors, whilst other sheep were in pools of water, assumed to have drowned.

 

Four Paws UK director Brian da Cal was quoted as saying ‘Many are wondering what would happen to the animals, and we have good news: all 119 of them have already been brought to safety and are currently being treated and cared for on a farm. Once the rescue mission is over, we will consider what will happen to them and how we can make sure they are well. The next mission is already underway and it is even more difficult than the previous ones: since some areas of the ship have been rendered inaccessible by the incident, our team now has to drill openings in the locked holds. No one knows what awaits us behind these walls, but we hope to find sheep alive inside!’. 

As of Thursday (28th November), it is reported that these valiant animal rescuers have now been able to save 228 of the 14,600 sheep.

The mass deaths of these sentient animals in transit, has caused a public outcry.  Whilst worldwide media outlets have been writing up their stories, animal lovers around the globe have been taking to social media to express their fury and anger that sentient animals continue to be transported around the world, in desperately cramped, confined and cruel conditions.

Brian May CBE, musician, singer, songwriter, astrophysicist and lead guitarist of Queen ‘Disgusting, yet more animals drowning at sea trapped in cages and an unimaginable death – live export has no place in this century’

Peter Egan, Downton Abby Actor, ‘Can you imagine the fear and horror these poor creatures suffered?  This must surely be the biggest wake up call for us to #EndLiveTransport…come on people, let’s get it stopped’

Deborah Meaden, business woman, entrepreneur and famous BBC Dragon, ‘I feel sick’ ‘And while our short attention span moved on, the wonderful people at Four Paws International face the awfulness that human greed showered on the defenceless creatures. Thank you, kind, good people..this must change things forever’

There is little doubt that this tragedy is horrific in every way.  Each day this week as the story unfurls, we learn of even more suffering. The brave animal rescuers entering the holds may yet find sheep clinging to life with no food nor water in desperately cold temperatures.

Photo from the sinking of the Queen Hind in Midia, Romania | Credit: Animals International

Worldwide, every year, millions of farm animals are forced to endure journeys of hundreds, or even thousands, of miles only to be slaughtered on arrival or be fattened in often inhumane conditions.  Live animals, including calves, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and horses are routinely transported by road, rail, sea or air across continents.  In particular, animals exported outside the EU are subjected to enormous suffering. As long as Europe’s leaders continue to prioritise trade over animal welfare, sentient creatures will be the victims who pay the ultimate price.

The European Commission is currently complicit in the cruelty of live animal exports.  A clear illustration of this arrived only two days after the Queen Hind disaster took place.  On Tuesday, we received a response to a complaint, sent in August this year. The letter of complaint to the outgoing European Commission was regarding an Irish livestock vessel, the Express 1. At the time of the complaint, the vessel did not have a valid certificate of approval and had higher than average mortality rates. Our letter included details stating that the Express 1 had been used as a livestock vessel three times between 7th March and 9th May 2019 – while it had an expired certificate of approval. The animals on board were being transported from Ireland to Turkey.

Despite this clear breach of legislation, the letter of response stated: “the allegations as presented in your complaint do not appear to show indications of a general practice, a problem of compliance of national legislation with EU law or a systemic failure of the Irish authorities to correctly comply with provisions of the EU legislation in relation to the implementation of the protection of animals during transport”.

This is clear evidence that the outgoing Commission is failing in its duty of care for animal welfare; that the Commission is tearing up its own words about animal welfare being a ‘priority.

The time for duplicity is over. The new Commission needs to deliver on the aspirations of EU citizens and put an end to the cruel and senseless long distance trade in live animals for slaughter or fattening.

Please join us in calling for an end to live exports. We need the world to wake up to the horror of this cruel practice and we need to do it urgently.  Please let’s ensure the floating nightmare that is the Queen Hind, NEVER happens again.