"What counts for us is that the animals are healthy"

By Christian BlockMisch Pautsch Switch to German for original article

Animal transports are controversial. Almost every day, consignments are sent abroad from Luxembourg. The veterinary inspectors do not find many deficiencies during their inspections. The Lëtzebuerger Journal accompanied them on their work.

Loud mooing greets us as we enter what at first glance looks like an ordinary stable. In reality, it is one of ten collection centres in the country. From here, farm animals are transported abroad. Nine are basically reserved for cattle, the remaining one for pigs.

We are somewhere in the mosaic of fields not far from Wilwerdange, in the rural and agricultural north of the country. The collection centre is bright and clean. The individual stalls, where a good dozen cattle are divided up, are lined with fresh straw. Thick and thin, brown and grey, male and female. There is something of everything.

Dr Tom Petit is here today to inspect the animals before they are loaded. Together with his work colleague Michelle Schoetter, he looks for signs of diseases and injuries on the legs that could cause them problems during transport. After all, when the truck later takes turns and changes lanes on the hour-long journey to St. Vith, Belgium, the cattle have to stand firm. Petit stops at a stall. "The animals look lively. They are not very fat, but these are dairy cows for which there was no time to fatten. There are buyers for those too, " he knows from experience.

He has been working as a veterinary inspector at the Veterinary and Food Administration (ALVA) since March 2018. Before that, he practised as a large animal veterinarian for 15 years. The appeal of a new career challenge led him down this path, though the strain of being on call 24/7 was also a factor. "When the phone rings, you drive off. In winter, you hardly ever sleep through the night, " Petit recalls. Last but not least, the change of job also means an opportunity for him to "make a difference elsewhere", to advise farmers and, if necessary, to point out mistakes.

Improving at the European level

At the beginning of August, we were able to accompany the staff of the Animal Health and Welfare Department during the inspection of animal transports. Two livestock trading companies had agreed to this. Superficially, the organisation of the reportage went smoothly. The exchange with the livestock traders was open, the atmosphere friendly and informal. The companies wanted to show that they have nothing to hide.

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