VEGA News Item

Movements of Dairy Cows and Calves Likely to Resume - 31/01/2006
Unless Defra can be persuaded otherwise the ending of the Over Thirty Month Scheme and arrangements being made with the EU, the traffic in cast cows for slaughter abroad and of frail calves for rearing on in units in mainland Europe will resume. Among all these evil aspects of the dairy/beef/veal trade, which enjoys subsidies and grants under the CAP, main land Britain may become a landbridge between farms in Ireland and objectionable units in France and the Low Countries. Consumers, customers, citizens, followers of the Animal Welfare Bill – take care! Cows’ milk is for baby calves, not even for grown up cattle, still less for human sucklings of any age. Boycott it! Our testimony to DEFRA follows.

VEGA consults DEFRA.

Re: BSE: Related Supplementary Consultation on Lifting the Ban – Live Exports from the Republic of Ireland

1. Our status on these matters is illustrated in material on our website and in various consultation exchanges with DEFRA and the Food Standards Agency, primarily on standards of animal welfare but embracing closely related issues of hygiene.

2. While the Animal Welfare Bill is under debate it is timely to seek consistency in the treatment of all livestock in transit for any purpose, whether or not the animals are being sent by road, sea or air and within the borders of the EU and through border posts. The trade opening up post-BSE and described in the despatch of 14/12/06 (see link to Consultation above) is likely to be dominated by stock from the dairy-industry, in the form of young calves and “spent” cows and breeding stock. Such animals would not command high prices and are therefore in need of redoubled competence and authority of inspectors at points of departure and arrival for slaughter or for finishing prior to killing. Some movements may involve stock for culling. The supervisions must also be rigorous en route and for intermediate stops and at points of loading and unloading, with provisions for instant recourse to remedial action in the event of road or sea accidents or injuries or illness acquired during the journeys.

3. These stipulation must apply.

3.1 Owners, keepers and hauliers must be trained and licensed to standards consistent with the responsibilities and with the wellbeing of the animals, stockpersons, and drivers. Conditions of traceability must establish financial resources to cover for instant remedial action in emergencies.

3.2 Vehicles must likewise be designed for their purpose, particularly with regard to ventilation, protection from adverse weather conditions, and minimization of jolting and sway. Animals should be transported in small groups with lying space in pens of animals familiar with one another and docile. Loading and unloading and other movements of the animals must retain the penned groups, e.g. by use of fork-lifts where necessary, to minimize recourse to ramps and dangers of shipping and jibbing.

3.3 All vehicles carrying loads of any species should bear notices to handlers and road-users carrying the words Caution! Animals in Transit. Manifests and other documents, including codes of practice in appropriate languages, should be easily available in drivers’ cabs. Procedures must be in place and rehearsed for the police and other inspectors, especially with competence in animal welfare, for the care of animals in loads intercepted for any reason en route or involved in an accident and deemed unfit to travel further, the expenses and costs for such provisions being indemnified by insurances for which the haulier must prove, through traceability documentations, adequate cover.

3.4 It is important to answer the call by animal welfarists, including the veterinary profession, for slaughter of animals at the abattoir nearest to the farm of origin and thus to reduce and replace the transport of meat on the hoof by product on the hook. Public unrest, especially over movements of calves to veal-rearing units on mainland Europe, must be heard and respected. DEFRA, and the FSA must therefore exert pressure on farmers and slaughterers to accommodate these demands and to ensure that meat is labelled and sold and advertised clearly.

3.5 Changes in the dairy-industry must be favoured that reduce the output of very young calves, deficiently furnished with colostrum, and of little value for anything but the veal trade. DEFRA must voice the concern that consumers are demanding cheap milk and meat at too high a cost to the cattle and that reducing subsidies will result in rising prices for customers and lowered consumption with recourse to less objectionable alternatives; benefits will accrue in the contents of dietary change. There are already some changes in the dairy/beef industry to rear calves to up to a year old as baby beef, barley beef, or in another free ranging marketing ploy, as “rosy, welfare-friendly veal”, but such ventures are of limited appeal.

3.6 It seems unlikely that forequarter cow beef will return to much favor in the UK for manufacturing purposes, especially when cheap beef from South America can be imported; therefore the outlet of barrenners and “heavy” cows into mainland Europe is likely to develop into a vexatious traffic of meat on the hoof. As with exports of live sheep these considerations must simulate solutions throttling this traffic, which is also attended by reservation over throat-cutting without reliable prior stunning.

3.7 These challenges have to be met against the possibilities that the live trade will transfer its operations to augment the already objectionable transhipments to the Middle East. Such developments must incur veterinary surveillance and stipulations so tight that it is brought to a halt. Movements of livestock from England, Wales, and Scotland to ports in Ireland for further transhipment must be anticipated and means to abort them prepared.

3.8 The dairy job is primarily responsible for unloading the burdens of the objectionable movements of calves and cast cows and spent breeding stock. It is still receiving hefty subsidies, grants, and preferments. Some of this funding must be diverted urgently from attempts at sustaining or increasing production of dairy-products to construction of approved facilities within the British Isles (and, correspondingly, the EU) for culling or slaughter of the living by-products or co-products of the farm at premises either on site or within an hour’s travelling time in transfers conforming to the relevant requirements of best possible practice. These stipulations must apply for any schemes of apparent endorsement, e.g. Red Tractor schemes, EBLEX, Freedom Foods, and Soil Association.

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