SPAIN has ordered the slaughter of 1,610 young bulls which have been stranded aboard a livestock ship since December.

The agriculture ministry on Monday said there was no choice but to cull the animals after they were deemed unfit for further travel and could not be re-imported into the European Union.

The cull of the animals brings an end to a sad saga that began in December after the cattle were refused entry to Turkey because it was feared they carried ‘bluetongue disease’.

They are on board a ship called the Elbeik which has been cruising around the Mediterranean looking for a new buyer for the cattle since mid-December.

Spanish authorities had last Tuesday ordered the ship to dock in Cartagena, describing it as the “most suitable port” for the inspection and possible unloading and slaughter of the animals.

A report by government veterinarians published by animal-rights group Igualdad Animal’s website revealed that 179 cattle had already died during the journey and were thrown overboard.

It reported that animals had been crammed into unsanitary pens with no room to lie down and were suffering malnourishment and dehydration. Some were found to be barely conscious.

It is the second ship transporting cattle to face the same fate within a fortnight.

Earlier in March Spanish authorities ordered the slaughter of more than 850 young cattle onboard the Karim Allah

The ship had also left Spain in mid-December and been refused entry to ports in Turkey and elsewhere because of bluetongue fears.

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