14 July 1995

Welfarists to go to court over calves

ANIMAL welfare groups have won the right to take the government to court over its refusal to ban live calf exports.

The RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming jointly initiated High Court proceedings last week. They want the court to clarify whether the government has the power to impose export restrictions on calves which are likely to be reared in another EU member state in veal crates.

At the preliminary hearing on Tuesday this week Mr Justice Popplewell granted them leave to bring judicial review proceedings against new farm minister Douglas Hogg.

MAFF did not oppose the judicial review. But an official said the ministrys position remained unchanged and that it would contest the action at the full hearing.

No unilateral action

MAFF has always insisted that it could not take unilateral action to ban calf exports because the decision would be at serious risk of successful challenge under European law.

But the welfare duo rejected this. They said that Article 36 of the Treaty of Rome entitled the government to ban a trade that was regarded as morally indefensible by much of the British public.

Stuart Harrop, the RSPCAs director of legal services, said Article 36 permitted export bans where the health of an animal suffered or where national public morality was offended.

Mr Justice Popplewell said the NFU should be informed of the case "because in the future the livelihood of farmers might be affected". That should allow the NFU to intervene during the full hearing and present evidence of on behalf of farmers.

Shelley Wright

The NFU later said it would give full consideration to the judges comments.

The case is likely to be heard later in the year, but not before Nov 1, and it may then be referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

The Livestock Industry Support Trust, set up to represent the British livestock industry, condemned the welfare groups action. "The RSPCA and CIWF are wasting members money in an expensive court case," said spokesman Rowland Kershaw-Dalby.

But he added: "We welcome the opportunity to clarify once and for all that the true offenders against public morality are the protesters who are seeking yet again to disrupt a legal trade."

Shelley Wright