The EU exports almost two million cattle and sheep a year to the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. For over a year Compassion in World Farming has been informing the European Commission about the horrendous slaughter practices inflicted on EU animals exported to this region. But the Commission refuses to halt this sordid trade.
We've sent them films showing terrible practices in Middle East slaughterhouses. These show slaughtermen slashing the leg tendons of cattle in order to control them and cattle being beaten - very hard - on the head with a large pole until, after several blows the animal is so dazed that it falls to the ground.
We've given them films showing sheep being dragged through the abattoir by a rear leg and the slaughter of EU cattle on the pavement outside butchers' shops. None of this has moved the Commission or the EU Member States to do anything to end the trade.
Most recently we've sent them footage from a slaughterhouse in Gaza. It shows EU cattle being dragged forcefully with ropes from the back of trailers onto a blood-soaked concrete floor. They are tied to posts alongside the bodies of those that went before and dragged into position by their tails. Then their throats are stabbed at and slashed multiple times. The stabs continue until they collapse and lose enough blood to render them unconscious. This can take several terrifying minutes.
We see one bull being stabbed in the throat. Among the chaos a horse pulling a cart with a headless cow on it collides with the wounded bull as he drops to his knees. Another horse is seen trotting through the carnage on the other side of the slaughterhouse. The process continues with the bull experiencing repeated slashing and stabbing from the knife to bring him to the ground.
This film, we thought, would finally do the trick. The Commission would at long last pull the plug on the trade. But no, our letter providing this fresh evidence received a brief response from which it was clear that we had again failed to dent the Commission's cynicism.
Nothing, it seems, can shift the Commission. In October 2014 Lebanon's Agriculture Minister visited Beirut's main slaughterhouse to which EU animals are sent. He denounced the "cruelty with which the animals are killed". Despite this, the EU continues to send animals to Lebanon. This slaughterhouse has now been temporarily closed due to food safety concerns but other slaughterhouses in Lebanon are likely to be just as bad.
The EU even sends animals to war zones where it must know the authorities are completely unable to ensure proper slaughter conditions. The EU exported around one million animals to Libya in 2014 despite this being a war-torn country in which the authorities are unlikely to be able to exercise any control over slaughter conditions.
We have informed the European Livestock and Meat Trades Union about the terrible suffering of EU animals sent to the Middle East but they too are unwilling to end the trade or even to take effective action to help these countries to improve their standards. Our latest letter to them detailing the situation in Gaza remains unanswered. For Europe's farmers and traders the sound of money pouring in drowns out the whimpering of brutalised animals.
The Commission has just held a workshop in Lebanon on welfare at slaughter. This is extremely welcome. However, it must be seen as only the first of the many steps that are needed to bring welfare at slaughter in this region up to international standards. We very much want to see improved slaughter standards for the sake of the local animals. But we strongly believe that EU animals should not be sent there as, sadly, it will take a long time for conditions to get better and, moreover, the long journeys often result in immense suffering.
Please email the head of the European Commission, Mr Juncker, and the Commissioners for Food Safety, Trade, and Agriculture. Tell them that the trade in live animals leaving the EU must stop.