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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006, 10:00 GMT
Live exports that sparked protests
Protest against live animal exports
Thousands protested around the country, including at Plymouth

The ban on live veal exports from Britain to the EU has been lifted. BBC News looks back at the issue that prompted nationwide protests about the treatment of the animals.

Eleven years ago thousands of animal rights campaigners held protests against the live export of veal calves. There were some clashes with police, and one protester was killed.

The long-running protests resulted in some port authorities trying - unsuccessfully - to ban the export, but the aim of stopping the practice was eventually achieved, albeit for different reasons.

By February 1996, fears of mad cow disease entering the European food chain - rather than animal welfare concerns - had prompted the European Union to ban live exports from Britain.

But after ten years, and the loss of a business said to be worth 675 million to farmers, the ban has been lifted.

Sea and air

While the government and farmers welcome the trade move, animal rights campaigners have warned that protests could resume.

Back in late 1994, protests had sprung up at air and sea ports where veal were loaded for shipment to Europe.

Jill Phipps
Jill Phipps died under the wheels of a lorry laden with veal calves

Campaigners criticised the conditions that animals suffered on long journeys to Europe: heat, overcrowding, lack of food and water.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says standards have improved since then, with farmers and transport companies required to meet strict animal care criteria.

But back in the mid-90s daily protests were held at Coventry airport, Brightlingsea in Essex, Shoreham in East Sussex, Dover and Plymouth, putting the national spotlight on the issue.

But it was outside Coventry's airport at Baginton that tragedy struck on a February morning in 1995.

According to fellow protesters, Jill Phipps ran towards a lorry laden with veal calves as it approached the gates of the airport escorted by police.

A policeman yelled for the driver to stop. Ms Phipps was trapped beneath its wheels and died.

The coroner's inquest ruled the death of the 31-year-old mother-of-one as accidental.

British cow
Farmers and the government are keen to resume live exports

At the time of the inquest a few months after the death, Mick Brewer, Warwickshire assistant chief constable, said the operation to guide the convoy of lorries through the Coventry protesters had been run properly and the police were not to blame.

"Jill Phipps died because she was engaged in an endeavour which was dangerous," he said then. "Jill made a miscalculation and could not get out of the way."

The tenth anniversary of the death of Miss Phipps, an Animal Liberation Front supporter from Hillfields in Coventry, was marked in the city last year.

Many of the participants wore purple, adopted by campaigners as the colour to symbolise "suffering and justice for animals" during the live export protests.

The protests had continued after her death.

Such was their power that two city councils and a harbour board had imposed their own bans on exporting live animals in a bid to be rid of the protesters outside their premises.

Illegal ban

But that was ruled to be illegal, when businesses went to the High Court in April 1995 to challenge Dover Harbour Board, and councils in Plymouth and Coventry.

The judge ruled that many sheep and beef farmers faced going out of business if the bans had remained.

The same month, the government said that policing the demonstrations had cost 6m.

If campaigners are to be believed, more than a decade later the protests could resume.

Miss Phipps mother, Nancy, has said people would not sit back and let live exports happen again.

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