England – Fighting For Calves !

You know; fighting for the welfare of calves has always had a special ‘box’ within me.

In my 35+ years of live animal transport investigation work, the suffering of these babies on the road really used to get my goat more than just about anything.

As British calves were being exported to the NL at the time; we took some time out of our schedule to ‘sniff around’ and find out a little more about places they were being sent to.

We shared many hours on the road; laughing, talking and generally trying to have a good time in work that we both knew the live animal export business caused immense suffering to – innocent, sentient beings.  Calves“.

England: Another Terrible Loss – John Callaghan. – World Animals Voice

With calves, you often hear them long before you actually see the truck – they are babies, and they bellow immensely for the milk produced from the mothers that they have been torn away from at what ?, often ages of just 1 day old.  Cow milk is for baby cows, NOT humans; yet the systems today try to make people think that humans are in need of cow milk, not the cow babies.

I took this picture above decades ago of British calves being exported to the veal systems of France and the Netherlands,  you can just make out the calves suckling the bars of the transporter; desperate for milk held within their mothers.  This is the reality of live animal transport; and just one reason of thousands why it needs to stop now.

In the past calves were held in individual ‘crates’ until they reached slaughter age of around 4 to 6 months.  During their short lives in the crates; they were deprived of any iron in their food; to make them anemic and thus make their flesh ‘white’ as required by the gastronauts of Europe.  What humans do to animals in the name of ‘food’ just really bums me off.

Anemia is defined as a low number of red blood cells. In a routine blood test, anemia is reported as a low hemoglobin or hematocrit. Hemoglobin is the main protein in red blood cells. It carries oxygen, and delivers it throughout the body. If you have anemia, your hemoglobin level will be low too.

We fought hard for the calves – (above) here I am (with Barb, a hunt sab) at Dover port (where calves were exported from) after we had put the British Prime Minister (at the time John Major) into the crate to get a feel for what he was approving.  You can see the liberated calf standing alongside.

Here are some pictures of real calves suffering in the crate systems.  Every one a valid reason why I fight tooth and nail for the calves;

Above – an investigation showed British calves were being exported to Hungary and that they were still being crated individually years after the EU ban came into place !

Above – with our tour truck in Holland teaching the Dutch about live veal systems.

Above – great campaigning days in the Netherlands for the calves.

Here – photographs from a PMAF investigation which I used in the compilation of an EU Parliament investigations report on calves being transported to France.

Above – Dover demo with animal buddies fighting live calf exports.

Often it feels like you are running up that hill – but a positive end makes it all worth it:

Regards Mark

EFSA opinions on the welfare of calves

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published today their scientific opinion on calf welfare. The EFSA was mandated to describe the most used systems, their welfare consequences and measures to prevent and mitigate those consequences.

EFSA also looked at three specific issues: 

Welfare of calves reared for white veal (including requirements for space, group housing and iron intake), 

Risk of limited contact between mother and calf 

What type indicators can be measured in slaughterhouses to monitor the welfare on farm. 

A species-specific Directive already exists to protect calves in the EU (Council Directive 2008/11/EC), yet it is extremely outdated, and fails to take into account new science published since it was adopted in 2008. Proof of this is that EFSA identified several hazards connected to these systems ranging  from respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases to inability to perform natural behaviours or even calves experiencing group stress. 

They have advised several solutions that Eurogroup for Animals welcomes: 

Group housing from the first week of life (between 2 to 7 calves) and keeping them in stable groups.

Increased space allowance – 20 m² is recommended so calves can express their full behaviour and 3 m³ is the minimum recommended per calf (all in group housing)

In regards to feeding: Good colostrum intake, increased amount of milk provided, and good quality roughage availability from 2 weeks of age. 

Several welfare indicators can be collected in the slaughterhouse, but they should be complemented with behavioural ones collected on farm

Regrettably, although the available science already points towards a need for a longer period of cow-calf contact and bonding, EFSA took a conservative approach, only recommending a minimum 24 hours of cow-calf contact. We strongly oppose this conclusion. Cow and calf contact can reduce stress of both adult females and calves, it increases the vitality and resilience of the calves and leads to an increase in body weight gain of the calves. Furthermore, it provides a better social behaviour for the calves in the long run that is prolonged until adult age. It also leads to an increased expression of positive behaviours for both. Eurogroup for Animals recommends that contact between the calf and the mother should be allowed for at least the first eight weeks of age. During this period, calves and cows shall be kept in a half-day contact system – at least – with suckling permitted.   

Furthermore, Eurogroup for Animals would like to see a more science-driven, animal welfare approach when it comes to iron levels in the calves’ blood. For acceptable blood levels of iron, we recommend a blood haemoglobin concentration of at least 6,0 mmol/L throughout the life of the calf, as already required by the German Directive 2008/119 (EFSA is recommending 5.3 mmol/L).

The science demonstrates that business as usual for calves is not going to work anymore. We urge the Commission to listen to the science and seriously improve the species-specific legislation to protect calves in the EU and beyond.

Welfare of calves kept for white and rosé veal production


Regards Mark

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