31 March 1995

MP asked for

proof of back door exports

By Peter Bullen

SCOTTISH MP Dennis Canavan has accused English farmers of "back door" exports of veal calves to Europe via Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire.

By the time they reached their eventual destinations some had travelled more than 2500 miles, he told the House of Commons.

The Labour MP for Falkirk West asked junior farm minister Angela Browning if she was aware of the use of the Scottish west coast port of Cairnryan for the trade.

"The animals are apparently transported by road from the south of England to Cairnryan, shipped over to Northern Ireland, smuggled across the border into the Irish Republic then shipped to the Continent," he said.

Barbaric practice

"Will the minister consult the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Irish Minister for Agriculture to try to put a stop to that barbaric practice?" he asked.

But Antrim Easts Ulster Unionist MP Roy Beggs said Mr Canavan and other MPs should not make allegations in the Commons which they could not substantiate.

Mr Beggs said the Scottish Office faxed him records of live cattle movements from Scotland to his constituency and the Port of Larne. "This is the first time that I have ever heard of the falsehood which I nail in the House today," he said.

Mrs Browning said he was right to call for proof, which was why she had asked Mr Canavan to supply her with evidence.

Serious view

"We take very seriously falsification of documentation or other matters that are not legal in connection with animal transport," she said.

She hoped Mr Canavan could substantiate what he had said because her officials were kept very busy on animal welfare matters and she did not want their time wasted on a wild goose chase.

&#8226 Earlier, Mrs Browning gave a hint that the government might back proposals to press the EU to redefine animals as "sentient beings" instead of "agricultural products".

Labours Elliot Morley asked if she would argue for the redefinition at next years intergovernmental conference. "At this stage we are prepared to look at reasoned arguments about the definition of live animals but I am not in a position to give a categoric assurance on that today," said Mrs Browning. &#42