Today again, Animals‘ Angels waits on both sides of the Bulgarian-Turkish border for animal transport heading to Turkey. Despite the information available that the Turkish customs authorities do not work on Sundays (today), numerous trucks have arrived at the Bulgarian side of the border since yesterday.
These include three Lithuanian trucks carrying heifers from Estonia. It is 2:00 o’clock in the night as we spot them for the first time. The pregnant young cows are being calm, some are lying. At the time, they have been on the road for 7,5 hours since the last unloading post in Romania – and they still face a 14 hours journey with almost 1.000 km to the place of unloading in Turkey. Added to this is are the waiting times during border and customs checks of more than 6 hours on average. Hence, up to now, the transport would still be in compliance with the required resting intervals of 29 hours – despite the extreme temperatures of up to 35 °C. But the drivers do not know that the Turkish customs authorities do not work on Sundays, so they cross the border shortly after 3:00 am.
In the late afternoon, we meet again Maria and the other cows on the Turkish side of the border. Two of the Lithuanian trucks have to wait there until Monday as Turkish customs is indeed closed on Sundays. Until Monday, when customs will hopefully finish the necessary paperwork, the animals have to endure an additional day on board the truck without being unloaded.
The heat of the day builds up inside the vehicles. The bedding is severely soiled by now and the strong smell of ammonia in the air attracts many flies. Most of the cows are standing, some seem to be exhausted. Others are restless trying to make more room for themselves. Maria is lying in an unusual position with her front legs stretched forward. Her ankle seems to be swollen. We inform the driver, but as he takes a closer look, Maria is lying normally again with both her front legs bent. We decide to check on her again the next morning.
The next morning, the swelling at Maria’s front leg is still slightly visible, but she is standing and eating again. At 12:15 pm, both trucks drive on to the place of destination. By now, Maria and her companions have been on board the trucks for 40 hours – and they are still facing a 1.000 km journey.