Posts Tagged ‘calves’

Minister, end live exports!

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Last week, my team and I met with Defra Minister, David Heath. Although my lobbying team had met with Mr Heath previously, this was my first time. The meeting was in Smith Square, the venue of many a demonstration against live exports, quite a few organised by our own campaigns team. We went through security and were greeted by an official designated to show us up several floors, along seemingly never-ending corridors, to the office of the Minister. 

I’ve met many government ministers throughout my career, in London and around the world. I always sit with my team well ahead of the meeting and prepare in detail what we’re going to cover. I’ve found that you very seldom get long to put your point across. Preparation and brevity are key to making points successfully.  As we waited to go in, I felt my usual nervous tension; I’m always keenly aware of carrying the case for animals.

We were greeted warmly by the Minister and launched into our two-pointed agenda; better labelling and live animal exports. We were accompanied at the start of the meeting by 9-year old Ayrton Cable, grandson of the Minister’s cabinet colleague, Business Secretary, Vince Cable.  Ayrton is youth ambassador for the Labelling Matters campaign,  a joint initiative with the RSPCA, Soil Association and WSPA. He produced a film making the case for meat and milk to carry labels telling consumers how the food was produced. Ayrton’s presence helped diffuse the opening mood of the meeting, with the Minister suggesting he had sympathy for our case on labelling. 

End Live Export Madness

Monday, December 10th, 2012

It’s beyond belief we still export live farmed animals to Europe. It’s unacceptable that this inhumane trade continues. Animals should be reared as close as possible to where they’re born. They should be slaughtered as close as possible to where they’re reared. There’s no defence for the live export trade. Indeed, no farmed animal anywhere should endure any journey of more than eight hours. It makes more sense, financially and morally, to trade in animal carcasses.

And yet the live export trade of sheep and calves from Ramsgate to Europe continues.

It continues because Thanet District Council, owner and operator of the Port of Ramsgate, was forced to go against its own policy opposing live exports. Recently Thanet Council barred the live export trade from its port. This popular measure was successfully challenged in the Courts by the transporters. And Thanet Council had to re-open its port. This was because in an earlier case the High Court ruled that the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847 prevents a port owner from prohibiting any legal trade.

The reason why the live export trade is not illegal is because the UK government fails to act decisively. It hides behind the argument that nothing can be done because of the 1847 Act. What about amending this 165-year-old law? It argues its hands are tied because European Union law prohibits us from restricting trade. But if the present government can defend national interests in Brussels, why can’t it protect British farmed animals as well? Invoke the Lisbon Treaty, which recognises animals as sentient beings, and calls upon member states to ‘pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals’.

In September, RSPCA Inspectors had to euthanise 43 sheep on the docks at Ramsgate. They were too sick or injured to continue their journey. Most likely, some should never have been allowed to travel in the first place. This was also the incident when the inspectors had to rescue seven sheep from water after a drain cover gave way beneath them. Tragically, three of the sheep drowned.

But there’s insult to be added to these injuries.


Can value and values co-exist?

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Did you see Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket on Tuesday night?

Jimmy Doherty is a free-range pig farmer and television presenter. His latest Channel 4 series shows his attempts to come up with innovative ideas to produce equally cheap but higher welfare alternatives to supermarket’s bestselling meat products.

Compassion has been working with the production team for a number of months, looking for ways to include higher welfare meat whilst keeping the price low.

One way we came up with was to use less, but better (higher welfare) meat as an ingredient, supplemented with healthy non-meat alternatives to keep the cost low.  It’s an approach that has benefits beyond animal welfare; better quality food for the consumer too.

The big issue Jimmy was seeking to tackle was that of male dairy calves. These calves have long been disposed of at birth because, being male they won’t produce milk, and being of a dairy breed, they’ve often not been considered suitable for beef production.  They’ve traditionally been exported live to the Continent or shot at birth.

For the past six years, we’ve been working with the dairy, beef and food industries to give these calves a better life. We’ve succeeded with three quarters of all dairy calves. These animals are now being reared in Britain in higher welfare systems for beef or for veal. Sadly there are still up to 110,000 bull calves per year being shot or exported. On Tuesday night’s episode, Jimmy challenged Tesco by attempting to produce a high welfare meatball for a budget cost. He did this using British rosé veal.

Whilst Tesco didn’t buy the meat-ball concept, he was successful in raising awareness of the plight of British dairy bull calves. He has managed to get Tesco to agree to consider selling British rosé veal in their stores in the future, instead of veal from the Continent where the welfare requirements for calves are lower. In addition, he managed to bring together farming communities and locals.  I congratulate him on that.

Ohio agrees reforms for farm animals

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Great news from America! A ground-breaking agreement has been reached in the US state of Ohio that will see the phasing out of veal crates for calves, an end to confinement stalls for pregnant pigs as well as other key measures to protect farmed and other animals. The State Governor of Ohio, the Farm Bureau and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) have agreed on the following landmark advances in Ohio:

  • A ban on cruel veal crates for calves by 2017
  • A ban on new confinement stalls for pregnant pigs in the state after Dec. 31, 2010. Existing facilities must cease using sow stalls within 15 years.
  • A moratorium on permits for new battery cage confinement facilities for laying hens
  • A ban on strangulation of farm animals and mandatory humane euthanasia methods for sick or injured animals
  • A ban on the transport of sick and injured cows, known as ‘downer’ cows, for slaughter
  • Enactment of legislation establishing penalties for cock fighters
  • Enactment of legislation cracking down on puppy mills
  • Enactment of a ban on the acquisition of dangerous exotic animals as pets, such as primates, bears, lions, tigers, large constricting and venomous snakes, crocodiles and alligators.

Huge congratulations to our friends at HSUS for achieving these monumental reforms for farm animals! This is a major victory that will surely quicken the trend against farming practices that cause such suffering to farm animals.

Thank you to those supporters who were able to respond to the call to support this major initiative.

Farm animals in Ohio and the world over will benefit from this reform. Compassion sends a huge vote of thanks and congratulation, particularly to Wayne Pacelle and his dedicated team at HSUS, for making it happen.

Working together for calves

Thursday, November 5th, 2009

There is great power in working together.  This truism is highlighted no better than in the progress report from the Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholder Forum.  The Forum brings together the expertise in industry, retailers, farmers and animal welfare to agree shared goals for calf welfare.  The underlying vision is to reduce the number of calves exported live or shot at birth in a way that truly benefits all within the food and farming industry.  It’s an ambitious project.  And, as the latest progress report shows, it’s working.  The number of calves reared in the UK in the year to May 2009 increased by 61,000.  That’s 61,000 calves spared long distance transport or an early death.

In years gone by, up to half a million calves would be exported from the UK to the continent.  Many would be reared in the veal crate, one of the worst factory farm systems.  Thankfully, our campaign was successful in getting veal crates banned across the entire European Union (EU).  Despite the ban, continental veal rearing systems often continue to be poor.  Added to that, scientific evidence shows that calves suffer when transported long distances.  That is why Compassion continues to campaign for an end to long distance transport of animals.  

When it comes to calves, we believe that British born calves should be reared on local farms using higher welfare systems.  The work of the Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholder Forum is showing that this is not only possible, but is being done increasingly on a day to day basis.  Live exports have fallen from 96,000 in 2006/07 to 53,000 in 2007/08.  Only 9,000 were exported in 2008/09, although this latter drop was due to a ban on the import of British calves by the Netherlands due to disease fears.  During the same period, the number of male dairy calves retained on UK farms has increased from about 340,000 to 413,000.  A welcome trend.

So who’s behind the Forum?  Well, a quick glance at the Forum members on the back page of the report shows a veritable ‘who’s who’ of the UK food and farming scene.  The National Farmers Union, National Beef Association, Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers and Assured British Meats are amongst the producer and assurance groups.  McDonald’s and Linden Foods are amongst the food companies, including the big retailers.  Veterinary and academic institutions are joined by Defra (the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).  And then there is the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming, who chair the meetings and provide the secretariat.  About 40 organisations in total, united in working together to meet shared goals.  

The Forum has been meeting now for three years and works by consensus.  The case studies presented in the progress report include quite stunning examples of major companies working to improve their supply chains and animal welfare.  Detailed examples of best practice schemes have been submitted by ASDA, Blade Farming, Linden Foods, Marks & Spencer, McDonald’s, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.  Like I say, almost a ‘who’s who’ of the food industry.

And the really important thing about the Forum is that all involved recognise that there is mutual benefit to finding humane solutions to the age-old problem of previously ‘unwanted’ male dairy calves.  The report provides a huge amount of information for producers, farmers and industry on how to improve calf welfare, and how to make a profit.  A clear case of the old adage, ‘it pays to be humane’.

By working with partners and seeking mutual benefits, we can find new ways to help improve animal welfare and stop the suffering of tens of thousands of calves that might otherwise be exported or meet an untimely death.

With your help, we can keep up the pace of change.  Please help our campaign to ensure that every male dairy calf is wanted, not wasted.

Farmageddon on film

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About Philip Lymbery

Philip Lymbery is Chief Executive Officer of Compassion in World Farming and co-author of Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat. He is an internationally respected authority on the impact of industrial agriculture on people, animals and the planet.