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Stackyard News May 06

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    UK Live Export Trade Shaped By Welfare Priorities

NFU Scotland has stressed the importance of the live export trade to farmers and emphasised the rigorous welfare standards that apply to the transport of cattle to Europe.

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beef cattle

On Wednesday (3 May), the ban on the export of British beef, introduced a decade ago, will be lifted. As world famous Scottish beef heads back to European dinner tables, as well as carcasses and cuts being exported, live cattle can also be moved over the Channel. NFUS has stressed that the transport of cattle to Europe is governed by tight regulations. NFUS is also asking its members to take an extra step and get assurances from exporters that their animals will only be taken to European farms which operate to the highest standards.

From 1 January 2007, the use of veal crates will be banned across Europe, although the UK has already banned their use and other member states have taken a similar step, including the Netherlands which historically sourced live cattle from the UK.

Rather than campaign against this trade, NFUS believes animal rights groups would be better advised to demand that UK companies do not import food from farming systems that do not have our high welfare standards. The Union believes that animal rights campaigns against UK live exports hit the wrong target. They ignore the import of food into this country from foreign farm systems that would be deemed illegal here and wrongly target UK farmers who are going the extra mile on welfare standards.

Nigel Miller, a vet and farmer from the Borders, who chairs NFU Scotland's Livestock Committee said:

"As a farmer, I know this trade is vital to the industry and, as a vet, I know we are treating animals with the highest standards of care. Of course we would far rather see calves reared in this country, but the fact is there isn't the demand for male dairy calves here.

"I would certainly request that our members demand assurances from exporters that their animals will only go to farms complying with the strictest standards - including the ban on veal crates.

"Technology has advanced significantly over the last decade. Vets and government inspectors are involved in transportation and we have vehicles fitted with cooling systems, water and in-cab monitors so the driver can keep a check on animals as they travel.

"I am sorry to see animal rights groups target a legitimate and well-run UK trade. The hard reality is that many male dairy calves are put down at birth because they have no market. I find it strange that a group which says it fights for the welfare of animals would rather see calves put down at birth than live a productive life in a market where they are valued, especially when the Scottish industry is insisting on the same high standards abroad.

"If these groups really want to make a difference on animal welfare, rather than target the UK which is renowned for its exceptional standards of care, they should join the farming industry and demand that we stop importing food from foreign farming systems that would be illegal in this country."

. NFU Scotland has produced a guide for farmers on the export of cattle, outlining the rules and regulations that govern the trade and the steps that must be taken to get export authorisation. A copy is available on request on 0131 472 4023.

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National Farmers' Union
NFU Scotland