No Compromise

International News

Issue 9

Page 8

Live Animal Transports Blockaded in Austria

Vienna -- After intensive campaigning by AR groups, a few years ago Austria passed what I know of as the strictest live animal transport law there is. Animals can be transported up to 6 hours and a maximum of 130 kilometers on country roads or 260 kilometers on motorways. These restrictions are for the entire journey to the nearest suitable slaughterhouse and are not nullified by rest stops or lay-overs.

The passage of this law did not see the end of intensely cruel animal transport in Austria, however. With Austria's joining of the EC, foreign animal transport lorries can now pass through the country according to EC regulations--rather than Austrian transport law. So, for the past few years, Austrian AR activists have been blockading foreign lorries from traveling across the border and contravening Austrian transport laws.
Activists block live animal transport truck

Usually 30 to 40 live animal transporters cross Austrian borders from the north to the south each day. Most of the lorries come from northern Germany, Holland, or Denmark and head for the coast of Italy, Slovenia, or Croatia. There, animals are loaded onto ships for transport to the Middle East or Africa, mostly for Halal slaughter. With these great distances, by the time the animals reach the Austrian border they most likely have been traveling for 24 hours, which is illegal by Austrian law. And, the trip through Austria to the coast adds another 10 hours of travel time. Next comes a few days on the ship. The stress, disease, and inherent cruelties involved with such transport eventually leads to many animals being dead on arrival. Our efforts are to combat precisely this.

In addition to blockading transporters, Austrian activists have focused attention on Mr Fischler, the Austrian EC Agricultural Commissioner, who is ultimately responsible for EC animal transport laws and subsidies. On 4 October 1997, World Animal Protection Day, activists staged anti-live-transport protests all across Austria. Mr. Fischler was in for an extra surprise. As he was about to give a speech at the University of Salzburg, ten activists stormed the hall. Five were stopped immediately by security. The others, however, made it to the stage where they unfurled banners and staged a ritual slaughter of a human with a cow mask directly at Mr Fischler's feet, spurting fake blood over him and the stage furniture. Activists shouted into the megaphone as the audience both applauded and booed. Minutes later, all of the activists were removed. The action was aired on national TV news.

On 14 February 1998, 150 people staged a demo against live exports at the German border, but did not attempt to blockade any lorries.

THE NINTH BLOCKADE

On 21 March 1998, activists executed the ninth blockade of live transport lorries. This time, protesters attempted a new tactic. Instead of blocking the lorry until the drivers agreed to rest the animals for 24 hours in a nearby lairage, the activists demanded that it turn around and return to its place of origin, Germany. The lorry did indeed turn around! It was followed through Germany and tried time and again to thwart the protesters and slip across a border unguarded by activists. German police arrested a number of people and tried to block activist vehicles, but, eventually, the lorry was again blockaded in its next attempt to cross the border. After many hours of stand off and a total of ten hours of delaying the lorry, the activists agreed to allow the lorry to travel to the next lairage across the Austrian border to let the animals debark from the lorry to rest for 24 hours.
Activist locked on underneath van blocking slaughterhouse

However, upon arrival at the lairage, the animals were not unloaded. So, activists built barricades and demanded that the animals be unloaded and allowed to rest for 24 hours. The authorities agreed to the demands. Only when it was made sure that the animals were unloaded did the activists end the barricade. Encouraged by this success, a weekend of action against live animal transports throughout Austria--to become the tenth blockade--was set for on 24 to 26 April 1998.

THREE DAYS OF ACTION

People gathered on Friday evening and started blockading lorries from 9 p.m. The police were well-aware of the blockade plans--obviously through telephone tapping--and were present in large numbers. Despite this, activists blocked the first lorry at the Salzburg, Austria/German border. Nine activists were quickly removed by the police, but, ten minutes later, managed to stop two more lorries. Two activists were arrested and one lorry escaped, but the second was soon occupied by 50 activists, who started to feed the animals and give them water. It was soon revealed that the lorry had traveled 22 hours from Denmark and was heading for Koper in Slovenia, where the animals--some 40 young pregnant cows--would be shipped to Jordania for breeding purposes.

The lorry was blockaded until 2 a.m. Fifty police officers surrounded the 50 activists. The protesters were offered the compromise that the animals would be rested for 24 hours on a nearby lairage deeper inside Austria, but they refused. Two animals were seen bleeding in the lorry, and the activists demanded immediate vet attention for them. Tensions soon rose when an activist was spotted trying to lock himself onto the lorry. The police charged into the crowd, beating everyone nearby until they got to the locks and removed them, aggressively arresting the activist. The protesters were warned to disperse. When they didn,t, the police charged again, pulling hair and beating activists with batons--actions caught on film by one Austrian and two German TV crews. Soon the lorry was able to pass. Seventeen activists were arrested, putting the number of arrests up to 20. After two hours at the police station, everyone was released and charged with two minor offenses.

Meanwhile, the police had warned other animal transporters to avoid this border. Our scouts followed three other lorries in Germany driving towards different Austrian borders. But, as we were occupied dealing with the police as others sat in jail, we had to let them go.

The next day, as activists regrouped and prepared for the second night of blockading, several media outlets featured our efforts. Live interviews aired on the radio and three TV stations, and all major newspapers reported on the actions. Nationwide, scenes of police aggression were shown on TV news.
Blockade of Austrian lairage

Saturday evening came and the police, guarding the borders, did not anticipate the protesters' next move. At 2 a.m., the activists went to the lairage--which is also a slaughterhouse--where the lorry that had been blockaded the day before was detained for 24 hours as the animals rested. The lorry was scheduled to leave at 3 a.m., and the activists were ready. They blocked the exit of the lairage with six vehicles and quickly locked themselves under the vans and cars with concrete pipes. The action took place so quickly that the on-site police couldn,t stop them. Immediately, police back-up arrived. About 15 activists who were not locked underneath a vehicle, started to build a barricade with whatever was lying around, from iron bars to wooden planks and big oil cans. Eventually, the barricade was two metres high and occupied by several activists.

After several hours, at 8 a.m., 17 activists on the barricade were arrested, taking the arrest total to 37. The police turned their attention to the lock-down activists. A bulldozer arrived and dug another path to the lairage/slaughterhouse through a hedgerow between the trees, allowing the loaded animal transporter to pass through the blockade. After seeing that the traffic could easily pass through this new gap, the remaining activists unlocked.

On Monday morning in Vienna, Mr Fischler was scheduled to give a speech at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. A three-pronged action took place. Several activists snuck into the hall. At the prime moment, some jumped up, holding a banner reading: "Stop bloody EC animal transports, Mr Fischler!" Other activists waited until the end of the talk to swamp Mr Fischler with questions relating to animal transports. The Austrian EC Agricultural Commissioner promised to stop the infamous Herodes premia (the distribution of money for calves killed, a practice that encourages calf "production") and to stop EC subsidies for live animal transports.

Outside, more activists staged a protest, distributing leaflets, holding banners, and showing live animal transport videos on a TV screen. Mr Fischler had to pass through a group of angry protesters as he left the Chamber of Commerce.

The weekend of action against live animal transports through Austria was a success. And, if more activists from neighbouring countries joined our efforts, we would only be stronger in our fight to end live animal transports.

As No Compromise goes to press, we have received an update on the live animal transport efforts in Austria:

In one night of action, 50 Austrian protesters gathered to follow lorries in Germany and blockaded others as they tried to cross the border. Police presence was very high, and German officers constructed road blocks and stopped and searched all Austrian vehicles in attempts to disrupt transport blockades. To combat German police efforts and to cover possible new routes taken by the lorries, activists spread out and covered several smaller border crossings inside Austria. Soon, two lorries escorted by five Austrian police vehicles were spotted. As activists chased the transport trucks, many protesters' vehicles were stopped and searched by Austrian police, but others escaped attention and set up an ambush. Unfortunately, Austrian police anticipated this and re-directed the lorries over two high mountain passes, which cost them (and the animals) an additional three hours journey time.

Meanwhile another animal lorry was spotted. The 15 activists at that crossing were attacked by police as they ran towards the transport truck. A police officer repeatedly punched one activist in the head and knocked him down. Another activist who managed to get in front of the lorry was struck down by the truck as it plowed into him. A police car drove straight towards three activists further down the motorway, causing two to jump into a ditch while the third ran straight in front of the lorry. He was hit by the truck and thrown a few metres.

A total of eight activists were arrested and many more were assaulted by police and the lorry itself.

Due to Austrian activists' efforts, live animal transport lorries must now have police protection to pass through Austria. They are determined to keep up the pressure and blockades until no such lorry passes through Austria again. Activists in neighboring countries are encouraged to join in the efforts. 

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