This is a new fiasco in the maritime transport of animals, which illustrates the limits of the legislation governing this sector. Left Sète (Hérault) on September 3, aboard the freighter Nader A, to be exported to Algeria, 789 young bulls were refused landing on their arrival at the port of Algiers on September 5, and will have to return to France to be… euthanized. At the heart of this imbroglio: a suspicion, by Algiers, of infection of three of these cattle with infectious bovine rhinotracheitis (IBR), a highly contagious viral respiratory disease.
For the French Ministry of Agriculture, the blockage comes “a difference in interpretation by the Algerian authorities on the health status of these animals”. The ministry ensures that if three of these bulls presented a document stipulating a positivity with the IBR, it is because they had precisely been vaccinated against this disease. Exchanges between the French and Algerian authorities did not convince the latter, however, who refused to allow the cattle to be unloaded at the port of Algiers.
After two weeks when the ship remained at the quay, it had to turn back to return to France. The Ministry of Agriculture has not confirmed the planned return location, but the Nader A should, according to information from the animal protection NGO Welfarm, return to the port of Sète on Thursday 22 September. Late Wednesday afternoon, the cargo ship was off the coast of Catalonia, according to geolocation data from the MarineTraffic site. On the other hand, the outcome for the young bulls is not in doubt: due to the circulation of foot-and-mouth disease in Algeria, a disease from which France is exempt, “the animals will be eliminated on their return”explains the Ministry of Agriculture.
Indeed, during their stay at the port of Algiers, the cattle were fed with Algerian hay, for which a risk of contamination with foot-and-mouth disease cannot be excluded. If France denies any breach in this case and assures that the animals departing from Sète were “healthy” and that the health certificates had been “properly transmitted”this dispute with Algeria testifies to the difficulties of supervising the animal transport sector and recalls another episode: the wandering at sea of thousands of cattle, at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, on board two cargo ships, theElbeik and the Kareem Allahbanned from landing in several Mediterranean ports and forced, after several weeks, to return to Spain, where the animals had been euthanized.
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