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The odyssey of the 2,700 Spanish cattle that have been roaming the Mediterranean for two months

Last Monday, February 22, the ship Karim Allah, loaded with 880 head of Spanish cattle, it returned to Cartagena (Murcia), from where it had left on December 18.

He returned to the place of departure after spending more than two months roaming the Mediterranean after Turkey, the country to which the merchandise was destined, refused to accept it, considering insufficient documentation that proved that the cattle were free from the disease bluetongue.

The return to Spain seemed like the definitive solution to a surreal commercial conflict that, however, remains unfinished. Since Monday, the ship has been anchored in the vicinity of the port of Cartagena, but does not ask for permission to enter before the warning of the Ministry of Agriculture.

“The Spanish health authority communicated to us on Monday the resolution in which it told us that if the ship touched port the animals would be immediately slaughtered,” he explains Miquel Masramónn, lawyer who together with Jaime Rodrigo It represents Talia Shipping Line, the assembly company of Karim Allah.

The resolution in question says that if the animals enter Spain “the importing company must isolate them and slaughter them within the port area as soon as possible”, that the meat cannot be used for “human consumption” and that it must “destroy the corpses in a treatment plant. ”

Among the reasons for resisting the landing is that the shipowner, although it has only acted as a carrier, could be considered to be a subsidiary responsible for the cost of this entire process of eliminating the animals, which, explains Masramón, could amount to “a million euros”.

1,776 animals near Cyprus

In a situation similar to that of Karim Allah is the ship Eldeik, who left Tarragona the day before, on December 17, with 1,776 heads cattle. He was also rejected by Turkey, but, unlike Karim Allah, he still continues to stumble across the Mediterranean, in his case near the Cypriot coast. Between the two there are about 2,700 cattle, including calves, cows and bulls.

The conflict, explains Masramón, originated when the Turkish health authorities when arriving at the port of Innsbruk considered that it was not sufficiently proven that the cattle were free from the bluetongue.

The Karim Allah ship, in August 2020 in Tarragona.ANIMAL WELFARE FOUNDATION

“The certificate says that some of the calves originate from Aragon and reject the animals for not complying with the protocol of bluetongue. It turns out that shortly before, an outbreak of bluetongue in Huesca and Huesca is in Aragon. In these cases, they explained, it must be proven that the cattle come from a place more than 150 kilometers away from the source of the infection. And as this is not guaranteed, they reject the discharge “, the lawyer details the details of why the Turkish refusal.

However, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food assures that the ship “sailed from Spain with animals provided with the corresponding health certificates and from areas free of bluetongue“.

Suspicion of the ‘blue tongue’

And in the same sense they pronounce from Asoprovac, the Spanish Association of Producers of Beef Cattle. “The animals left Spain correctly certified and with the approval of the Turks. The surprise of the exporters was that when they got there, the health authorities reject the animals because they consider that they could be infected,” he says Matilde Moro, manager of Asoprovac.

After the rejection of the Turks, Miquel Masramón continues the story of the “via crusis” lived by Karim Allah, the company that exports the cattle, World Trade, instructs the ship to move to Tripoli.

“Those of World Trade see the possibility of selling them in Libya, where the bluetongue They are different, and the Spanish health authority issues new certificates so that the cattle can be driven to Libya. But the Libyan authority rejects him for the same reason, because they say he is suspected of bluetongue“.

It is then, in mid-January, when, according to the version of Karim Allah’s lawyer, the exporting company disappears from the map and leaves them to their fate. Qualify the lived situation as “anguish”.

Spain demands sacrifice

“With water there is no problem because there is a system to produce it on the ship, but we had no fodder or straw. After we left Libya, we were kicked out, we tried to load fodder in Tunisia. The ship was featured in the media. communication like a plagued ship, saying that it was carrying infected cattle. Finally, fodder could be loaded in Sicily. And then we tried to find another port, wherever it was. As there were suspicions for sanitary reasons, we tried to look for some homes called quarantine warehouses . Countless steps were taken, but nowhere was the download accepted “, Masramón recounts the odyssey.

Image of Karim Allah in a cattle transport in 2016.
Image of Karim Allah in a cattle transport in 2016.ANIMAL WELFARE FOUNDATION

They then decided to return to Spain, where they found that the General Directorate of Health of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food demanded the sacrifice. “Community legislation obliges that,” explains Matile Moro, from Asoprovac.

“Any return and return to the port of origin, even if they are not live animals … If Spain or any European country export a container of product to a third party for example and it is rejected, what the legislation allows is that it be sent to another destination or that it is destroyed there or in the place of origin, “he adds.

The assembly company, however, resists sacrifice. “We want to protect the merchandise and not only for the love of the animals but because the carrier has not charged and has the right to compensation for the merchandise. The carrier has been taking care of these animals”, explains Miquel Masramón.

Cattle blood test

Jaime Rodrigo, who also defends the interests of Karim Allah, explained to EL MUNDO this Wednesday afternoon that they had hired the services of the Oss company, emergency specialists, and that a veterinary team was heading to the ship to take blood samples to cattle. These will be analyzed in an official laboratory.

“There are two dilemmas here: if the certificates are right or wrong – I do not agree with the Turkish authorities, I don’t know – and if the animals are right or wrong,” said Rodrigo. “If the veterinarians tell us that the animals are in good condition and we obtain the certificates from the Spanish administration, we will sell them tomorrow,” he adds.

The circumstance arises that the sale could not be in Spain, due to the aforementioned resolution in which the entry into the country of the animals is prohibited if it is not for their sacrifice and destruction, so to overcome the analyzes the cattle will have to undertake a new journey.

In the two months that have passed since they left Cartagena, 15 of the 895 animals that left have died, a figure that the assembly company considers “a success” given the circumstances.

The complaint

The situation of Karim Allah and Eledeik was denounced a month ago by the German NGO Animal Welfare Foundation. “We received an anonymous call from one of the boats in which they told us that they were having problems unloading the animals,” he explains María Boada, veterinarian of the NGO, who has been following since 2014 the 80 ships that are certified to load animals in Europe.

Boada points to the Spanish Government as the maximum responsible for the situation of livestock. “They are trying to remove guilt by saying that the animals did not come out sick, but at the legal level they are responsible for their welfare until they arrive at their destination,” he says.

And she is in favor of their being slaughtered. “We directly ask for euthanasia. They have been adrift for two months. If the transport normally lasts a week and they already arrive in poor condition, imagine two months.”

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