COPENHAGEN: Fourteen dead cows that washed up on the beaches of Denmark and Sweden were probably dumped overboard by the crew of a Lebanese ship after it encountered bad weather, Danish police said Friday.
"The police suspects that (the source is) a Lebanese ship that was transporting live cattle from a US port to Europe," the South Zealand and Lolland-Falster Police said in a statement.
"The ship ran into a storm in the Bay of Biscay, in which a number of cows died," it added.
The ship's management may be prosecuted since dumping dead animals in the Baltic Sea is prohibited, it said.
The puzzling appearance of nine cows on the beaches of south Sweden and five in Denmark has stunned the public, especially after it was revealed that some of them had been shot and had their ears mutilated.
The animals, the first of which was found on December 31, also had their back legs tied together and their stomachs cut open.
The ears had been cut to remove the earmarks identifying the animals, police said.
"The reason the stomachs had been slit open was probably to ensure the animal sank, and the back legs were probably bound so that a crane could grab and hoist the cow overboard," it said.
The Lebanese ship's crew had asked to unload the dead animals in a Russian port but were turned down, after which they most likely dumped them around 18 kilometres (11 miles) off the Danish island of Bornholm, police said.
The unidentified Lebanese vessel was currently docked "at a port in the Baltic Sea," it said.
Swedish police on Tuesday launched an investigation into the incidents.
"I've worked in the police for 40 years and I have never dealt with such a crime," Scania police spokeswoman Ewa-Gun Westford said.