13 August 1999
Look to France for sensible calf prices

By John Burns

A FRENCH calf dealer who saw a beef-cross heifer calf sold for £4.50 in a Devon auction market last week says it would have made £220 or more in France on the same day.

Hugues Inizan, who has a farm in Brittany as well as a base near Plymouth, is campaigning to be allowed to export calves from Britain to France.

“France needs a million calves a year. They have to come from somewhere. At the moment it is so-called German calves, but they are really from places like Poland and Hungary,” he says.

If the ban on live exports was lifted today, Mr Inizan claims he could be exporting immediately. “I had phone calls from France asking for calves when the beef ban was lifted. They thought it referred also to calves.”

He says he is prepared to isolate the calves on rearing units in France and check with MAFF just before slaughtering the reared calves to confirm that their dams were alive and had not had BSE.

He is also prepared to face protesters at the ports again, even though his farm premises were burnt down during the last series of protests against live exports.

French people trust French meat slightly more than British and, if the veal is reared in France, it can be labelled as French-reared, he adds.

French veal production methods have changed, with modern systems housing calves in groups of four. “With veal worth £4/kg there is no incentive to ill-treat them.”

Mr Inizan is amazed that British farmers stand by while their industry is ruined.

“In France farmers would react straight away. If they were here there would be no visitors to the eclipse in Cornwall. All roads would be blocked. All farmers stand together to fight for each other. If they are asked to go [to a protest], they go.”

Considerable resentment is building up among dairy farms in the south-west about the governments attitude to producers problems and threatens to result in deliveries of young calves to animal sanctuaries and similar organisations.

But the regions NFU officials are warning against such action, saying it could lead to adverse publicity.