European politicians have called for an end to live animal journeys of more than eight hours, and specifically targeted the trade in Scottish calves to continental Europe.

Only two years on from the last EU transport legislation, a petition “8 hours” has been launched by a Danish member of the European Parliament, which has been backed in the UK by MEPs Neil Parish and Struan Stevenson together with the pressure group Compassion in World Farming.

Their aim is to collect one million signatures which will be submitted to the European agriculture ministers who will discuss revision of the regulation next year.

The petition launch has attracted a furious broadside from NFU Scotland‘s vice-president Nigel Miller.

Mr Miller said it “beggars belief” that politicians have chosen to reopen the debate so soon after the latest legislation was passed. He added that the proposal wouldn’t let farmers operate within their own country, with the movement of finished cattle and sheep from the Scottish Highlands and Islands and the transport of pigs proving particularly difficult when the country relies heavily on slaughtering capacity in England and Wales.

“It will have huge ramifications for Scotland’s livestock sectors and, if the groups and politicians behind this petition get their way, then many journeys within the UK would be impossible,” he said.

MEP Struan Stevenson, deputy spokesman on agriculture for the Conservative Party, said he would recommend a derogation for the remote Scottish islands like Orkney and Shetland, where longer journeys by sea were inevitable. “But these should only be undertaken in specialised units which enable the animals to rest and lie down while accessing food and water. For all other journeys eight hours must be strictly adhered to, with renewed emphasis on transporting carcasses rather than live animals,” he said.