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The dairy dilemma

News Section Icon Published 11/06/2012

Historically, male dairy calves have been treated as a waste product of the industry.

They can be shot on the farm shortly after birth and, with almost 10,000 exported through Ramsgate and Dover to the continent last year, you could be forgiven for thinking that the situation is dire.

But there is reason for optimism, as our CEO Philip Lymbery explained on Countryfile last night (Sunday June 10th). Watch it again (only available until Sunday 17th June).

Philip chairs the Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholders Forum, a group which includes animal welfare charities, farmers and other members of the dairy industry.

The group has been working to reduce the terrible waste of dairy bull calves being shot at birth or exported to be raised as veal in systems that could be illegal in this country.

Philip told the Countryfile audience: "These calves have been historically viewed as waste, and treated as such. What we wanted to do was to see the number of calves exported reduced, the number of calves being shot at birth reduced and an increase in the rearing of these calves in Britain in higher welfare systems.

"From a situation where most of these calves were being exported or shot on farm, now more than three out of four are being retained in Britain, reared by British farmers to higher welfare standards."

Compassion advises those people who eat veal to buy higher welfare British veal.

As well as the use of sexed semen, to reduce the number of male dairy calves born in the first place, the programme also addressed rearing them as beef.

Philip said they could be just as good in terms of taste and have better health benefits, such as being lower in fat.

He added: "It is wrong to think that dairy bull calves can't produce good quality beef because they can and they do. That is what a great part of the industry is now picking up on."

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