Animal welfare charities have called for stiffer European legislation on the carriage of livestock at sea after a 49-year-old vessel broke down in the Mediterranean and required a ship-to-ship transfer of nearly 8,000 animals.

The 4,054-dwt livestock carrier Spiridon II (built 1973), with 300 young bulls and 7,600 sheep on board, encountered engine problems four days after leaving the port of Tarragona in Spain on 23 February en route to Aqaba in Jordan, the charities said.