25 August 1999
Union plea for emergency calf aid
By FWi staff
THE National Farmers Union has called for emergency aid from the government in an attempt to stop farmers from dumping worthless bull calves on the streets.
Ben Gill, NFU president, will meet with industry officials over the coming days to hopefully ease the pressure on farmers facing the misery of dealing with the calves.
The end of the governments Calf Processing Aid Scheme (CPAS) last month has created a desperate situation in the calf market, Mr Gill said today (Wednesday).
“We now need, at the very least, a Government-based scheme which removes these calves at no cost to the farmer until new, viable markets can be developed.”
The CPAS scheme paid farmers £40 for each week-old bull calf after the domestic beef market collapsed and exports were banned in the wake of the BSE crisis.
Although the three-year-old ban on exports was lifted at the beginning of this month, it applies only to processed meat and not to live animals.
The end of the CPAS scheme has placed enormous pressure on many dairy farmers, who have already seen milk prices slump to 17ppl over the past few months.
Some producers have abandoned week-old calves in phone-boxes, in town centres and at animal sanctuaries over the past weeks to draw attention to their plight.
But the NFU and animal welfare groups have criticised the action, warning that it could damage the reputation of farmers with the general public.
The more radical animal welfare groups have called on shoppers to boycott milk and dairy products in protest at the dumping of the calves.
Mr Gill will tonight discuss the progress being made to establish new markets for the calves with representatives from the Meat and Livestock Commission.
One option favoured by many farmers is to pressure the government to allow the resumption of exports of live calves.
But such a move is unlikely because junior agriculture minister Elliot Morley, who is in charge of animal welfare matters, is opposed to the live export trade.
The NFU is urgently continuing its investigation into new outlets for the calves and will meet representatives from a range of industry bodies tomorrow in London.
Among those attending will be officials from the British Veterinary Association, the Livestock Auctioneers Association, the Womens Farming Union and the RSPCA.
The talks will centre on how to lessen the impact of the current situation on farmers through welfare-friendly measures to tackle the problem of low-value calves.
“As autumn calving peaks arrive, it will become even more imperative that there is short term Government action,” said Mr Gill.
“Our worst fears – fears which we have regularly articulated to Government – on the outcome of such an abrupt ending to the scheme have been proven.”