P&O ferries say they will ‘cease co-operating with Scottish Government’ over exporting young calves to Europe

Written by Tom Freeman on 11 September 2018 in News

Calls for live animal export ban grow after BBC documentary highlights thousands of young calves exported to the EU for slaughter

Calves - credit sarahluv

Ferry operator P&O has refused to carry calves for export to Europe following animal welfare concerns.

An investigative documentary on the BBC last night revealed around 5,000 young calves were shipped to Europe from Scotland alive last year, despite P&O having a policy of only shipping breeding livestock.

The male calves are shipped because they are surplus to requirements on dairy farms, where heifers are made to give birth regularly to keep milk supplies up.

The journey lasts six days, after which most end up in Spain to be fattened for slaughter.

In a statement P&O said: "We can confirm that P&O Ferries will cease co-operating with the Scottish Government to transport across the Irish Sea young calves destined for continental Europe with immediate effect.

"We place the highest priority on animal welfare across all of our routes and were shocked by the scenes in last night's documentary.

"We will not hesitate to act decisively and close the account of any customer which breaches our policies in this area."

Rural Affairs minister Mairi Gougeon said: "Live animal transportation is something that is important for Scottish agriculture, it is important for our island communities, we just need to make sure that it is done as humanely as possible and that we uphold the highest possible standards in animals’ welfare."

 Green MSP Mark Ruskell said he had contacted the ferry operator.

“The firm line being taken by P&O after I contacted them shows that a private ferry operator has more backbone than the SNP Government,” he said.

“Live animal exports is an issue the public care deeply about, and Nicola Sturgeon's ministers are complicit in animal cruelty.

“I welcome the update from P&O and the pressure will continue to mount on the Scottish Government whose support for live animal exports is tarnishing Scotland's reputation for good food and animal welfare. The Scottish Government must now fully back Westminster legislation to deliver a UK wide ban on live exports.”

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth said: “Scottish Government have repeatedly refused to support a ban on live exports, despite the well-documented animal welfare risks. This new evidence must surely convince them to reconsider.”

Smyth has lodged a debate in parliament on the matter which has gathered cross-party support.

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