The charity and Government officials were forced to stop a lorry transporting 247 calves after the animals appeared “exhausted” and to avoid exceeding the legal maximum transport time.
The RSPCA estimated that the lorry had been travelling for around 70 hours, which included some rest stops.
Current law states that calves must not be transported for more than nine hours without an hour rest period, and not longer than 21 hours before a 24-hour rest.
The lorry had arrived at the Port of Ramsgate, but due to a delay at the port, the animals’ travel time exceeded the legal limit. Government officials prevented the lorry from continuing the journey, and it was directed to a nearby lairage for the calves to rest.
The RSPCA’s ruminant welfare specialist John Avizienius said this case was a “stark reminder” that the UK’s current laws do not go far enough across long distances.
“Currently transport companies arrange and time the distances down to the minute to take these animals on a journey as long as legally possible, but this week’s journey shows that just one delay can mean a breach of the law,” said Avizienius.
“This is the first time in several years that we’re aware of a lorry being turned away from the port and sent to a local farm to rest. It is positive to see that the law was enforced in this instance, but we believe the law doesn’t go far enough to protect the animals. Having seen photographs of the calves, we had concerns about their hydration and general health and the question needed to be asked as to whether they were really fit to travel.”
Calf exports have recently resumed through English county of Kent to Europe for the first time in five-and-a-half years, with journeys beginning in Scotland destined for Spain.