Animal Aid

Animal Aid accuses government of callousness and hypocrisy

Posted 10 March 2006

In the wake of the announcement* that live exports of cattle can soon resume, national campaign group Animal Aid has launched a fierce attack on the government for its betrayal of modern farming's most vulnerable victims. Labour - in opposition and in government - has always professed to be alarmed and distressed by the cruelty inherent in the veal trade.

Labour won a great many votes based on this apparent commitment to animal protection. Now, DEFRA Minister Margaret Beckett's statements celebrating the imminent resumption of calf exports exposes the government's cynicism and callousness. It is clearly far more concerned with promoting a trade that makes millions of pounds from sending calves to a life of misery and exploitation than it is with animal welfare.

British calves are surplus 'by-products' of the dairy industry, taken from their mothers at a few days old so that the milk meant for them can be bottled up for humans. Separation of mother and calf causes immense suffering to both. Whilst some female calves will enter the UK dairy herd, many of the males - being too scrawny for beef production and with little demand for the cheap meat they would provide - are currently shot at birth. Up to half a million of these unwanted animals will now be shipped abroad each year. After a long, traumatic journey by road and sea, during which young calves are known to fare particularly badly, many will end up in veal crates - contraptions so cruel that they have been banned in the UK.

Surveys have consistently revealed that the majority of the British public is opposed to the veal trade, a fact that manifests itself in the almost total absence of veal on UK restaurant menus.

The veal trade has always been a highly emotive issue. In 1995, mass protests reached a peak in Shoreham and Brightlingsea harbours, with thousands of people taking to the streets in an attempt to hold up the lorries and stop the ships from sailing. It was during one such protest that animal rights campaigner, Jill Phipps, perished under the wheels of a livestock transporter.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

'Should the export of calves recommence, it is inevitable that huge protests will take place once again. People are not prepared to stand back and watch it happen. The earlier mass protests demonstrated widespread and passionate opposition to the trade felt by large numbers of ordinary people. As well as protesting, there is something every person can do on an individual level. To save these calves from ending up in veal crates, people should stop eating dairy products. These young calves are, after all, "waste products" of the dairy industry.'

Notes to Editors

  • *The EU Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) voted, on March 8th, to lift a 10 year ban on the export of live cattle from the UK, paving the way for hundreds of thousands of British dairy calves to be sent to Continental veal crates.
  • The ban on the export of beef and live cattle was imposed by the European Commission (EC) in the wake of the BSE crisis. Following SCFCAH's renewed vote of confidence in British beef, the EC must officially overturn the ban in order for live exports to resume. It is currently considered a foregone conclusion that this will take place, with the industry hoping that the first livestock ships can set sail from Dover in April.
  • For background information on the BSE crisis, see Our close up on BSE

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