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TB spreads to the Netherlands

News Section Icon Published 18/07/2008

Plea to end the calf export trade as tuberculosis spreads from a British farm to Europe.

Calf export: cruel, unnecessary and spreads disease

Compassion in World Farming is calling on British farmers to end the unnecessary export of live calves to Europe after news that the potentially devastating disease, tuberculosis (TB), has reached Dutch veal farms.

It has been reported that the calves were exported to the Netherlands in March when they were thought to be free from TB. However, after their arrival to a number of Dutch farms, the parent herd in Britain tested positive for the disease, so Defra swiftly contacted the Dutch Agricultural ministry to inform them. The British calves in the Netherlands were tested soon after and twelve of them were found to be carrying TB. The news has come as a grave shock to Dutch farmers as the Netherlands has been TB free since 1999.

The Dutch Agricultural Ministry has not yet implemented import restrictions, but farmers in Holland are already taking matters into their own hands and refusing to buy British calves. The TB strike raises the question as to whether it is sensible for calves to be sent on long journeys to the Netherlands.

Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor for Compassion in World Farming advised, "It has been clear for many years that live exports spread disease. It is an inhumane and unnecessary trade which must be stopped."

The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture released a statement ending with, "…Minister Verburg again points out the risks of importing calves".

A recent Compassion in World Farming report (2008) by Mr Stevenson found that 'Long distance transport not only increases the opportunities for animals to come in contact with diseases, but also makes them more susceptible to infection because of some degree of immuno-suppression resulting from stress during transport.'

Transporting live animals across long distances not only poses significant biosecurity risk, it is also a serious threat to animal welfare and a missed opportunity for British farmers. Recent evidence shows that Britain may face a beef shortfall within a year, which will hike price per head and beef products for consumers.

Mr Stevenson continued, "Not only does the British farming industry need to fully embrace the Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholders Forum, but British retailers must start offering concrete incentives and encouragement to farmers to rear dairy calves in Britain and guarantee them a decent price. The farmers can't change the export industry alone."

Further reading and resources:

  • To read the press release nr2408.pdf ( 25.50KB)
  • The Beyond Calf Export Stakeholders Forum was launched in 2007 and includes representatives from across the beef and diary industry.
  • Compassion in World Farming report: Long Distance Animal Transport in Europe: A Cruel and Unnecessary Trade, by Peter Stevenson, March 2008. Quote on page 9: Download the full report ( 1276.17KB)
  • For background on live exports and to take action, please visit our calf export campaign pages

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