After more than three months stranded in the Mediterranean, the surviving bulls aboard a cattle boat were humanely euthanized by Spanish authorities in Cartagena on Sunday. An official Spanish veterinary report described the dire conditions aboard the Elbeik, in which 179 bulls had already died.
Al Elbeik and a second cattle boat, the Karim Allah, had been denied entry to several countries for health reasons. We remember the events that shaped this “hellish journey.”
December 18, 2020
Two cattle boats, the Karim Allah and the Elbeik, leave Spain for Turkey loaded with Spanish steers. The Karim Allah leaves the port of Cartagena with almost 900 animals and the Elbeik leaves Tarragona with about 1,800.
The Karim Allah arrives in Turkey on December 27 and the Elbeik on December 29. Both boats are denied entry for fear the bulls could become infected with a bovine disease called bluetongue. Carriers blame an error on the health certificates issued by the Ministry of Agriculture of Spain; the ministry denies it. On January 1, the Karim Allah departs from the Turkish port of İskenderun and the Elbeik departs from another Turkish port, Derince.
The Karim Allah arrives at the Libyan port of Tripoli on January 6 and returns from January 9 with all the bulls on board, after being denied permission to unload.
The Elbeik arrives in Tripoli on January 9 and leaves again on January 25, after its discharge permit was also denied. The ship’s next port of call is Alexandria, Egypt, arriving on February 1 and departing on February 4.
The Karim Allah arrives at the Italian port of Augusta, Sicily, and departs again on January 29.
The Karim Allah reaches Sardinian waters near the port of Cagliari. On the same day, the Elbeik anchors off the coast of northern Cyprus, near the port of Famagusta. Animal welfare organizations ask veterinarians to visit the boats. Cypriot vets are put on hold to check the animals, but neither the ship approaches nor requests veterinary assistance.
The Karim Allah returns to the waters near Cartagena, Spain, but does not enter. The transporters plan to do a blood test on the cattle and, if the animals are free of any risk of disease, re-export them. The sender says that the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture has said that the animals “face immediate slaughter” if the ship docks.
The term of the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture for the Karim Allah to slaughter their livestock expires. A legal fight ensues when the chargers attempt to block an official Spanish kill order.
26 of February
An official report from the Spanish veterinarian dated February 26 finds that 22 of the Karim Allah bulls died at sea, with two corpses still on board. The report notes that other bodies were cut up and thrown overboard during the trip. It concludes that the animals that suffered the long journey were generally unwell and unsuitable for transport outside the EU, nor should they be allowed to enter the EU for disease control reasons. Euthanasia would be the best solution, he says. The report doesn’t say whether cattle have blue tongues, but it does point to a variety of other skin, eye, and leg conditions, including alopecia, scaling, scabs, and joint swelling consistent with septic arthritis.
6th of March
The legal fight ends and on March 6 the slaughter of the Karim Allah bulls by Spanish officials begins. By March 9, all Karim Allah bulls are dead.
Under orders from Spanish officials, the Elbeik finally returns to the port of Cartagena three months after leaving Spain, after stopovers near Cyprus, in Greece, to stock up on supplies, and off the coast of Menorca.
Spanish veterinary officials complete and sign a report describing the appalling welfare conditions aboard the Elbeik. The report quotes the captain of the Elbeik as saying that, of the 1,789 bulls originally loaded, 179 died during the voyage. The bodies were chopped up and thrown overboard. Ten other carcasses were also found on board, the report says, and of the remaining animals, some are dying, while others are starving and extremely dehydrated. In some pens, he notes, “the crew had placed fodder in the pen so that hungry animals were forced to eat the carcasses of their companions.” The accumulation of urine and manure covers the animals’ hooves, he says, leaving them without dry areas to lie down.
A separate veterinary inspection, conducted on behalf of the Elbeik cattle owners, found that only 136 of the bulls required immediate euthanasia. The rest, he said, could recover after a period of rest and proper feeding if the risk of bluetongue or other diseases is eliminated.
The last 1,610 surviving Elbeik bulls are slaughtered in the port of Cartagena. The Ministry of Agriculture of Spain says that it has sent the veterinary report to the Public Ministry on the basis that “the events described there could constitute indications of a possible infraction in relation to current legislation on animal welfare.” The owner of the cattle, who does not wish to be named, has questioned the report’s findings.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism