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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 12:08 GMT
EU vets debate veal calf exports
Cow and calf
The ban was originally put in place to protect food safety
European Union veterinary experts are to meet in Brussels to decide whether British farmers can resume live exports of veal calves to the rest of the EU.

The exports were banned 10 years ago as part of measures aimed at preventing the spread of mad cow disease.

But by then the trade had already sparked mass anti-cruelty protests at British ports, in which one woman died.

The ban could be lifted if the vets decide that Britain has done enough to prevent the spread of the disease.

And, if this proves to be the case, beef and live cattle could be transported within the next few months.

The only beef which is currently eligible for export is UK boneless beef produced under the stringent conditions of the Date Based Export Scheme and beef of foreign origin produced under another scheme.

BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), otherwise known as mad cow disease, has mainly affected cattle in the UK, where millions of animals had to be destroyed in the 1990s.

BSE has been linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), a disease that causes paralysis and death in humans.

It is really critical that UK agriculture, which I think does a brilliant first-class job, has an opportunity to be present in the marketplaces of Europe
Peter Kendall
National Farmers' Union president

The EU ban was originally put in place to protect food safety.

The export of live veal calves prompted mass protests at ports in the 1990s and led to the death of protester Jill Phipps in 1995 outside Coventry airport where calves were loaded onto flights for the Netherlands.

Her mother, Nancy Phipps, said protests would be held if exports resume.

"Did they really think we're just going to sit back and do nothing?

"After all the trouble there was last time all over the country, people standing in front of lorries and fighting police - do they think we're just going to sit there and let them happen all over again?" she said.

President of the National Farmers' Union Peter Kendall said he wanted to reassure people that standards had improved "significantly" in the past 10 years, both in transport and in the conditions which the calves are kept in Europe.

"We want to see the restoration of 500 million worth of beef exports to the British marketplace.

Journey care

"It is really critical that UK agriculture, which I think does a brilliant first-class job, has an opportunity to be present in the marketplaces of Europe."

Regulations governing the export of live animals include feeding and watering them during the journey.

They also have to be rested for 24 hours before the journey, be fit for transport and be shifted in suitable transportation, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.

All aspects of the export must be documented, with a vet involved in checking that the animals are cared for.

However, campaign group Compassion in World Farming said any resumption of exports would prompt protests.

"This trade is brutal and pointless - meat should be exported, not live animals," said CIWF transport campaigner Rowen West-Henzell.

"Scientific evidence shows that calves travel badly and, if this trade resumes, they will be sent on long and stressful journeys over land and sea, adding to the distress they feel after being taken away from their mothers."

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