Saturday, August 28, 1999 Published at 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Abandoned calves are destroyed
The end of subsidies has rendered calves worthless, farmers say.
RSPCA officials have put down all 20 of the calves left at phone boxes and other points across west Wales over the past week by farmers protesting at the crisis in the agriculture industry.
An RSPCA spokesman said they had no choice following what they believed was unnecessary and irresponsible action by the farmers.
The animal welfare charity said it had no choice about putting the animals down as they were not tagged.
This made it impossible to trace their histories to check if they were from BSE-free herds and the RSPCA was informed it was illegal either to keep them or to move them.
RSPCA officer Huw Evans said: "By law, we are not allowed to move them because we cannot prove that they do not have BSE and may contaminate other animals.
"We would love to have homes found for them but we are not allowed to."
The calves' destruction came the day after Welsh Agriculture Secretary Christine Gwyther met her Westminster counterpart to press for the extension of a vital calf compensation scheme for farmers.
But Agriculture Minister Nick Brown offered no extra cash to Welsh beef farmers and Ms Gwyther is now expected to raise the matter in a meeting next week with Assembly First Secretary Alun Michael.
The cattle industry in Wales has been in crisis since the government scrapped a scheme which guaranteed farmers a minimum price for bull calves, which could not be sold abroad due to the beef export ban.
"If we do want it, we have to pay for it," he said.
The plight of farmers had been made difficult by shifts right across the livestock market.
"There is no doubt, whenever you interfere with a market, farmers move. The trouble for livestock farmers is that they have very little room to manoeuvre."
Many Welsh farmers have found it impossible to sell their calves since the collapse of the export trade.
A total of 17 were dumped in public places in order to draw attention to the industry's plight.
Ms Gwyther pledged to support farmers in the battle to restore the compensation scheme for bull calves.
"I have assured farmers' leaders that I will be giving further thought to their suggestions," said Ms Gwyther.
"In principle, I support these ideas, but there are financial and legal problems that would have to be overcome before they could be brought in.
However, Bob Parry, leader of the FUW, said after the meeting that dealing with the Assembly was useless and that farmers needed to go to a higher level of government.
Bull calves sold for as little as 50 pence each at Cardigan mart in west Wales on Monday.
Two calves offered to Ms Gwyther by the Farmers' Union of Wales as a protest at the Pembrokeshire Show last week have since been killed and fed to hunting dogs at a kennel in west Wales.