European Union veterinary experts decided this week to lift a 10-year ban on live veal-calf exports from the UK to the rest of the EU, the BBC reports. It's expected that the lifting of the ban imposed after the discovery of BSE in the UK will lead shortly to resumed exports of beef and live cattle from the UK.
Currently only boneless beef produced under the stringent conditions of the Date Based Export Scheme and beef of foreign origin produced under another scheme is eligible for export from the UK.
However, a subplot to the startup of live veal-calf exports is activist sentiment about the humaneness of shipping such calves. While the ban was originally put in place to protect food safety, the export of live veal calves prompted mass protests at ports in the 1990s. One protestor was killed in 1995 outside a UK transport point.
The activist group, Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), says resumption of calf exports will prompt protests.
"This trade is brutal and pointless -- meat should be exported, not live animals," says the CIWF's Rowen West-Henzell in the BBC article. "Scientific evidence shows calves travel badly. 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."
Meanwhile, Peter Kendall, National Farmers' Union president, says he wants to reassure people that standards improved "significantly" in the past decade, both in transport and in the conditions that the calves are kept in Europe.
"We want to see the restoration of £500 million worth of beef exports to the British marketplace," he says. -- Joe Roybal