An undercover investigation has exposed the abusive treatment veal calves from Ireland received at a resting post for live exports in France.

Secret footage captured by animal rights activists shows the calves being beaten, kicked, and jumped on by workers at a center near Cherbourg, the Independent reports.

At least 2,500 calves are unloaded at the post every 12 hours before being reloaded transported to the Netherlands to be sold as veal.

Under EU laws, the transported animals are supposed to find rest and feed at the resting post — instead hidden cameras captured workers beating calves as young as two weeks old with a rod, grabbing the animals by their ears and dragging them, and even jumping and stamping on a calf.

Read More: Over 100 animals removed from Co. Louth petting farm

One of the calves in the video was so badly injured it could only drag itself along by its front legs. The footage later sees the same animal kicked by a worker as it lay helpless.

Animal rights activists from the Eyes on Animals and French L214 groups, who revealed the abuse, said the calves were already exhausted and thirsty from journeys of over 18 hours from Rosslare to Cherbourg when they were unloaded at the Qualivia control post near Tollevast.

Nicola Glen, a spokeswoman for Eyes on Animals, said: “It is heartbreaking to see how these vulnerable animals, still unstable on their legs and dependent on their mothers milk, undergo horrific violence during transport to the Dutch veal facilities.”

“The Netherlands is the driving force behind this transport and Ireland is the main supplier,” Glen added. “Both countries should be taking responsibility for the welfare of these calves.”

Qualivia is certified by the EU as a “high-quality control post” and has received subsidies to expand its facilities, reports The Guardian.

L214 and Eyes on Animals are lobbying the EU to ban all transport of unweaned animals.

Isis La Bruyère, an inspector for L214, said: “Our demand is to ban the long [haul] transport of unweaned animals because in this transportation, there cannot be animal welfare.”

French police are investigating the violence caught on video, and reportedly arrested the man seen stamping on a calf.

Video captures workers abusing Irish calves at a resting post in France. Credit:  YouTube/Association L214

Video captures workers abusing Irish calves at a resting post in France. Credit: YouTube/Association L214

Ireland, one of Europe’s biggest vendors of unweaned calves, has increased the number of calves it sends to the EU and plans to increase them further. Ireland currently sends about 160,000 calves a year.

Irish agriculture minister Michael Creed told deputies: “I will continue to advocate on behalf of exporters on this issue,” adding: “What I will not do, however … is facilitate live exports through the breaching of regulations.”

A spokesperson for Ireland’s agriculture department said in a statement that it condemned “in the strongest terms” any abusive treatment of livestock.

“Ireland applies strict controls in relation to welfare of animals including during transport and has procedures and checks in place to ensure compliance with EU and national legislation,” the statement said.

Read More: Ireland's talking donkeys at the Liscarroll Donkey Sanctuary

“Prior to export all livestock undergo an animal health and welfare check by a department official veterinarian.

“All trucks are inspected and checked for water, spacing and other legislative requirements prior to departure. Where non-compliance is identified, appropriate remedial action is taken.”

A spokeswoman for the French government office of animal protection said the footage was “absolutely dismaying”.

She added: “All the relevant people have just been informed in France (at the local level as well as at the national level). Measures will be urgently taken so that this individual cannot continue to harm young calves.”