More than 850 cows that have spent months aboard a ship roaming the Mediterranean are no longer fit for transport and should be culled, according to a confidential report from Spanish government veterinarians.
The cows have been kept in what an animal rights activist called “hellish” conditions on the Karim Allah, which docked in the port of Cartagena in southeastern Spain on Thursday after struggling for two months to find a buyer for livestock.
The animals were rejected by several countries for fear that they had the bovine bluetongue virus. The insect-borne virus causes lameness and bleeding in cattle. The blue tongue does not affect humans.
The vets’ report, which was seen by Reuters, concluded that the animals had suffered from the long journey. Some of them were unwell and not suitable for transport outside the European Union, nor should they be allowed to enter the EU. Euthanasia would be the best solution for their health and well-being, he said.
The report did not say whether the cattle had bluetongue disease.
“It’s not even mentioned, which is very surprising,” said Miquel Masramon, a lawyer representing shipowner Talia Shipping Line. The ship is registered in Lebanon, according to VesselFinder.
“My impression is that they will definitely go ahead with the killing and destruction of the animals and it will be difficult for us to prevent it,” he said.
Masramon said he will push for the return of blood samples taken from the animals and seized by authorities on Thursday to be released and analyzed “to show if there is bluetongue.”
The Agriculture Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He said earlier Friday that he would make the appropriate decisions after analyzing the information from the inspection.
The ship originally departed from Cartagena to deliver the cattle to Turkey. But authorities blocked the shipment and suspended imports of live animals from Spain for fear of bluetongue infection.
That rejection turned the ship into an international pariah. Several countries denied entry even to replenish animal feed, forcing cows to spend several days with only water.
The cows are likely to have serious health problems after their “hellish” crossing, said animal rights activist Silvia Barquero, director of the NGO Animal Igualdad.
“What has happened to the waste produced by all these animals for two months? We are sure that they are in unacceptable sanitary conditions, ”Barquero told Reuters.
Ministry experts counted 864 live animals on board. Twenty-two cows died at sea, with two carcasses still on board. The remains of the others who died were stung and thrown overboard during the trip, according to the report.
Livestock ownership was unclear. The exporter, World Trade, said it was not responsible because it sold the animals, Masramon said. Reuters was unable to reach World Trade for comment.
A second ship, the ElBeik, also set sail from Spain in December with a cargo of almost 1,800 cows. It is currently moored off the Turkish Cypriot port of Famagusta.