Whilst we share the relief that the long shadow of Foot and Mouth disease has lifted from Britain, the EU decision to lift the ban on exports of meat and live animals from Saturday 25th August is extremely bad news for young British calves.
Male dairy calves make up a large proportion of live exports from the UK, and August to November is the peak calving season. Unwanted by the dairy industry, they are sold for export to veal farms on the continent.
In the first year (May 2006 - May 2007) since cattle exports resumed following BSE restrictions, nearly 100,000 calves under a month old were shipped across the Channel from Dover. The numbers peaked between August and November, with more than 12,000 travelling each month in September and October 2006.
British calves begin their journeys from as far away as Northern Ireland and Scotland. Around half are destined for intensive veal farms in the Netherlands, but 15 per cent travel as far as Spain on journeys of up to 100 hours.
Academic studies have shown that young calves do not cope well with long journeys: they suffer significant weight loss, are very susceptible to heat and cold, and frequently become ill in the weeks after transport because their immune systems are under-developed. For example, one report estimated a death rate of five per cent post-transport, which is significantly higher than for other livestock.
"This is a cruel and unnecessary trade in very young animals which surely undermines our standing as a nation of animal lovers. We should be rearing these calves in the UK for beef or high welfare veal, especially as the UK currently imports about 20 per cent of its beef."
Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming
CIWF is working in the EU and worldwide to help end the suffering of millions of farm animals transported over long distances for slaughter or further fattening, every year.
We believe that farm animals should not, and need not, suffer. If you agree, please support our work with a donation today.