The Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholders Forum, a group consisting of all the major farming, retail and processor organisations was set up by Compassion and the RSPCA, in response to the plight of male dairy calves being shot at birth or exported live to Europe to be raised for veal.
Compassion believes that all animals have a value, and wants UK calves to be reared in higher welfare systems in the UK.
The Forum has worked hard to improve the welfare and public attitudes to dairy calves. The creation of new markets in the UK for male dairy calves has given them an economic value which has resulted in a reduction in the number of male dairy cows being shot at birth or exported live to veal units on the continent.
At the Press and Stakeholder event, Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion said: "The Forum has met its goals of giving dairy bull calves a future that they simply didn't have seven years ago. I want to congratulate all of the stakeholders for the incredible problem-solving skills they have shown and their openness.
"This is a model for the future. There may have been many challenges on the way, but it has been hugely impactful in terms of numbers of animals whose lives we have improved."
The final report of the progress made over the last seven years focuses on three main achievements:
- An increase in the uptake of male dairy calves into the beef chain, which has risen by 58% since 2006 and represents 86% of male calves born
- A reduction in the number of calves killed on farm from over 80,000 to 54,670, which represents 12% of those born in Britain
- A reduction in the number of calves being exported live for further fattening, which has reduced by 90% since 2006 to less than 8,000 calves
Professor John Webster, Emeritus Professor of Animal Husbandry at the University of Bristol, and Robert Forster, former head of the National Beef Association were keynote speakers at the event. John Webster said: "In 2006, more than a third of all male dairy calves born were either exported or shot at birth. Now, fewer than 15% suffer this fate, which is good for their welfare, British farmers and consumers."
Robert Forster added:"The key was to find realistic, and economically viable, domestic options that would make the export market for dairy bred calves virtually redundant.
"Dairy farmers, processors and retailers were made aware of the advantages of drawing more of these calves into domestic beef rearing and finishing systems so they could make a direct, and important, contribution to increases in farm income and improvements to the agricultural economy."