6 September 1996

Rage over bull cull calf imports

By Shelley Wright

LIVESTOCK dealer David Muir has incensed animal welfare groups by importing French bull calves to be slaughtered in the UK under the calf processing scheme.

France does not operate the EU scheme, which pays £103 a head for bull calves under 20 days old. And the arrival last Friday of 300 calves at Dover, from Boulogne, created a storm of protest from welfarists and politicians.

But Mr Muir said he was doing nothing illegal. "This is a scheme funded by the EU, not the UK government, so any calves from the EU are eligible." And, he said, he was just trying to earn some money, following the BSE crisis which had devastated his £12m a year business.

"This was just an experiment. The French are struggling as much as British farmers to find markets for their animals. I was already importing French heifer calves and some farmers asked me if it was possible to take bull calves too for the slaughter scheme," he said.

Mr Muir said two loads of calves had been imported in the past fortnight, totalling about 500 animals, and there were no plans for any more shipments at the moment.

The RSPCA said it was disgraceful that calves should be transported unnecessarily just to earn French farmers a few extra francs. And Compassion in World Farming urged MAFF to take swift action to stop the import of calves into the UK for slaughter.

Lib-Dem agriculture spokesman, Paul Tyler, said that while the trade was not illegal, Mr Muirs action was not within the spirit of the calf processing scheme. "The purpose of the scheme was to provide compensation to British farmers who have been banned from exporting their calves due to the EU ban," Mr Tyler insisted.

MAFF was unhappy about the calf imports, and an official said that the matter would be raised with the EU commission in Brussels. "The scheme was certainly not conceived to allow calves from other EU countries to come here," he said.

Mr Muir said the welfarists had complained last year about calves being reared in veal crates. At least if they were coming to the UK for slaughter they would not suffer that fate. "I dont like the calf slaughter scheme, but I need to feed my family. Since the BSE crisis began I have had to lay off the 17 staff I used to employ. Ive got livestock lorries sitting idle and since March we have had no business," he said. &#42