Campaigners vow to fight animal exports

ANIMAL welfare campaigners who fought live animal exports in Essex a decade ago have vowed to take action once again if veal calves are sent for slaughter abroad.

ANIMAL welfare campaigners who fought live animal exports in Essex a decade ago have vowed to take action once again if veal calves are sent for slaughter abroad.

UK exports of live cattle, beef and beef products were banned in 1996 due to mad cow disease (BSE). But Europe's veterinary experts approved lifting the ban yesterday and the European Commission is expected to endorse it in about six weeks.

The move was welcomed by politicians and the farming industry but animal welfare campaigners fear a return to veal calf exports.

Sue Wheeler, Olive Allum and Val Oliver took part in nearly every demonstration against live animal exports in Brightlingsea for ten months in 1995. Although mainly sheep were sent from Brightlingsea to Nieuwpoort in Belgium, there were also some consignments of veal calves.

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Yesterday Mrs Allum, of Dovercourt, said: “It's bad enough with sheep, but calves very often are under a week old. As they're driven along their legs buckle under them because they're only a week old.

“I'll never ever forget seeing them in Brightlingsea. I've a photo of a little calf who got his head stuck through the slats of one of the lorries. I think they've got better lorries. But it was a terrible thing, he was cutting his throat as he was trying to get his head through.”

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She added: “We've got to stop this because it's really, really cruel.

“I used to go down to Dover (to join in live animal export protests). I'm now disabled. My protest days are finished except for writing letters. I won't stop trying to stop this cruelty.”

Mrs Oliver, of Colchester, still regularly goes to protests in Dover, with her daughter and some friends.

“I think it's absolutely wrong to send animals on a journey like that. They could be killed in this country and sent abroad frozen. It's all money and profit behind it.

“I think it's absolutely disgraceful about the welfare of the animals and what they have to suffer on some of these long journeys.”

Mrs Wheeler, who was chair of Brightlingsea Against Live Exports in 1995, said she and the group would continue with letter writing campaigns against animal exports.

East of England MEP Robert Sturdy welcomed the EU's decision: “I am delighted that British farmers are to be given the chance to sell their products across Europe. I believe our beef is amongst the best in the world, produced to the highest standards and able to compete with anyone. However, regaining our market share will take time and I am disappointed it has taken so long for this ban to be lifted.”

He added: “I would prefer to see more meat exported as opposed to live animals, as it adds value and improves animal welfare, but at present there is a market for both and we must do all we can to support British farmers and animal welfare.”

NFU president Peter Kendall said: “This is the most positive news for the Biritsh beef industry in a decade. We can now look forward to recapturing the £675 million market that was lost when the ban was put in place

“This decision should create competition in the domestic market and provide access to potentially lucrative continental buyers.

“We are now back on an even footing with our competitors in the EC and I believe the quality of the British product will ensure that we begin to recapture our share of beef sales on the continent as soon as the ban is officially lifted.”

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