The drive to end live exports of calves has gained further momentum following a meeting of retailers, welfare groups and farm industry representatives.


The group, known as the Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholders Forum, was set up by Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA in the summer of 2006.


The forum’s aim is to make live exports redundant by finding a “realistic and economically viable alternative that will benefit the UK beef industry, calf breeders and also calf welfare”.


At the latest meeting three working groups were set up to try and find a way forward.


The National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster will lead one of the working groups. It will examine market opportunities for black and white bull beef.


Mary Mead of the British Friesian Breeders Club will chair the second, looking into overcoming the barriers to the development of the more sustainable cow.


The third group will be headed by professor of animal husbandry at the University of Bristol John Webster, and it will consider the animal welfare implications of any options put forward.


The forum is also reviewing dairy cow breeding which will develop a better type of calf for the beef sector, the forum members decided.


Organisations and groups taking part in the forum include:


British Cattle Veterinary Association, Cattle Information Service, DEFRA, English Beef and Lamb Executive, Holstein UK, Milk Development Council, National Beef Association, NFU, NFU Scotland, Marks & Spencer, Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative, Scottish Agricultural College, Soil Association, Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose.