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Thousands of sheep die on last journey from Europe to Middle East

FOUR PAWS findings show animal welfare problems even before sea journey


June 8, 2015 – VIENNA - FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organization, raises the alarm about the prolonged suffering and death of thousands of sheep during long distance transport. After a journey by road, 13,000 sheep boarded a ship in the harbor of Midia on the Black Sea in Romania with destination Jordan. According to Jordanian authorities about 5,200 sheep have died on the ship after eight days without food and water [1]. The president of one of the Romanian farming associations told FOUR PAWS that real number of animals that perished is closer to 11,000.


FOUR PAWS investigations show that some sheep were ill or dead and missing ear tags while they were still on land in the trucks at the gate of the harbor [2]. The findings show that the dead sheep belong to Holder Trade, a Romanian based company with a 6 million euro annual turnover, exporting 120,000 sheep and 4,000 cattle each year to Western Europe, Africa and Middle East [3]. The findings also include video materials that show dead and ill animals without ear tags inside a Holder Trade vehicle parked at the gate of Midia harbor by the Romanian coast on the Black Sea. According to the law each farm animal must wear an ear tap right after birth to prove the origin.


“We found that this company collects animals from all around the country for export, so they arrive already exhausted in the harbor”, says FOUR PAWS campaigner Gabriel Paun. “At our arrival most of the animals were already boarded on the ship but those we filmed in the truck seemed to be refused for Jordan and left to an unknown fate. Without wearing ear tags those sheep were absolutely illegal”.


The incident occurred a few weeks after the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture lifted an eight-month ban on the import of livestock from Romania, where an outbreak of the bluetongue disease was reported during 2014 [4]. Now the Jordanian authorities requested that the ship dispose of the dead animals before allowing the healthy ones to enter the country. “Throwing dead animals overboard in the sea is a disgusting but common practice of transport companies. Carcases of dead animals can spread diseases and affect marine life. Waves can bring the corpses to the beach. In April we received information about a dead cow laying on the beach of Tel Aviv after 32 cows died during a transport from Romania to Israel”, added Gabriel Paun.


According to EU legislation long distance transport refers to journeys longer than eight hours. Considering the average size of a European state a transport over eight hours means most of the times international transport already. Having a strategic geographical position (road hub and sea access), Romania collects farm animals from Eastern Europe and export them to western Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia.


“Many business people do not realize that these are living animals, not products. When they die during long distance transport it becomes crystal clear that conditions are terrible. .   No matter how strict the rules are such mass deaths occur more and more often. European states should export meat, not live animals. This extremely suspicious death of thousands of poor animals must be investigated. The truth has to come to light and the perpetrators must be severely punished” said Gabriel Paun.


FOUR PAWS calls on an end of long distance transport and for European producers to offer consumers the choice to buy meat from animals born, farmed and slaughtered in the same country. Information where the animal was born, farmed and slaughtered should also be clearly stated on the label when meat is purchased. This should eventually lead to a significant reduction of duration of the transport for animals.



[1] Vessel from Romania carrying 13,000 heads of sheep denied entry after 40% found dead






[4] Ban on livestock imports from Romania lifted