NFU seeks to protect interests of UK calves

THE NFU is asking potential calf exporters to give written assurances that calves from Britain will only be exported to rearing units that comply with the new EU calf welfare regulations, when the trade resumes next week.

The EU regulations, which will apply to all calf rearing units from 1 January 2007 but which have already been widely adopted and in force in the Netherlands, outlaw the use of veal crates and require calves to be reared in groups.

An NFU spokesman said that the resumption of the export trade would provide a much-needed market for dairy-bred calves, but said it was vital that trade was conducted to the highest possible standards, for the welfare of the calves and to allay public concern.

"The resumption of the export trade in live calves, is bound to be controversial and it is essential that it is conducted with the maximum transparency and to the highest possible standards. That is why we are asking potential exporters to give an assurance that calves will only be exported to units that comply with the new EU regulations."

The NFU is also publishing a lea?et - 'Calf exports - your questions answered' - explaining why the trade is important to farmers, the standards that will apply to the transport and the rearing of calves and how the welfare of the animals will be monitored and enforced. It argues that there is nothing inherently wrong or cruel about rearing calves for veal, or moving them from one part of Europe to another for rearing, provided they are well-cared for at both stages.

It concedes that, in an ideal world, calves would be reared and slaughtered for veal in the UK, and the meat then exported. But whilst that remains the NFU's long-term objective, a combination of the costs and expertise required to set up specialised veal calf rearing units from scratch in this country, and the preference of continental consumers for "home-reared" veal mean that this is not a realistic prospect in the short or medium term.

This Saturday Animal Aid will take part in a demonstration against the resumption of the trade in live calves from the UK.