19 April 1996

Killing starts in Holland…

As UK producers waited for full details on the EU bull calf slaughter scheme the Dutch government began the destruction of 64,000 British-born calves. Tony McDougal reports

VEAL calf rearers in the Netherlands, facing the wholesale slaughter of 64,000 UK-imported animals, have attacked the European Commission for failing to provide compensation package details.

Although the Dutch government has promised to provide affected farmers with a £23m package for the loss of their stock, there is no extra cash for the damage to the farm and food processing industry.

First affected

Piet Groenstein, who rears 400 British-born calves at his farm at Nigkerk, was one of the first farmers to be affected last week by the Dutch culling policy.

Mr Groenstein said he felt let down by the European Commission. "They decided to strike a world ban on exports from the UK, but they failed to give a cohesive answer on what would happen to the animals already in other EU member states.

"It would have been more logical to come up with a compensation package at the Council of Ministers but they seem to have forgotten all about it. I raised these animals for meat and I do not enjoy seeing them killed in vain.

"We understand why our government has taken these measures but we need to know more about the compensation package."

Wiegeraadt Wynand, spokesman for OPV – which represents producers, feed merchants, traders and abattoirs within the veal sector – said the organisation had been surprised by the hard-line taken by the Dutch government.

"Two weeks ago we were invited to a high-level discussion and were told of their plans, which astonished us. We were told by the minister that the decision was based on lack of consumer confidence and not for reasons of health and safety.

"Although we have worked out the initial compensation package, with the value of calves being estimated by independent brokers, there are still other details to work out.

"We have received soft promises of cash to match the need for farmers to buy new calves but have not been offered any compensation for the down-turn in trade in slaughterhouses."

Dutch trade plummets

Trade has fallen in Holland by up to 20%, with consumers turning to pork and poultry substitutes.

A Dutch MAFF spokesman said the concerted slaughter and disposal policy of British born calves would continue for another five weeks.

Calves are sent to the abattoir at Aalten before incineration at plants in Son and Bergum. The ashes will be further burnt at a plant near Rotterdam.

British-born black-and-white calves await slaughter in Holland.

Anger over the EUs beef export ban, and plans to slaughter dairy herds has spilled on to UK streets and roadsides.

More than 1000 demonstrators, led by farmers Union of Wales leader Bob Parry, marched through Carmarthen to protest against lack of government action to get the export ban lifted. Mr Parry said the march was also intended to put pressure on retailers not to substitute imported for home produced beef, and to remind them that farmers and ancillary workers were also food industry customers.

In the south-west, where producers have warned of massive protests if positive action is not taken quickly, signs of frustration, were on display in Devon along the A39 between Bideford and Bude. Producers left motorists in no doubt over their opposition to whole herd slaughter.