Placeholder image

Animal Concern Advice Line News


September 24th 2018: We have written to all MSPs asking them to help put an end to the live export of animals from Scotland. Please read what we sent them and, if you live in Scotland, write to your MSPs and tell them you would like to know what, if anything, they are going to do to end this cruel trade. If you don't live in Scotland please write to the Scottish Government Minister with responsibility for animal welfare and ask her what she is doing to stop this shameful trade.


An animal welfare charity has asked the Scottish Parliament to force the Scottish Government to ban the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter. Last year nearly 10,000 animals left Scotland for a very uncertain fate outside this country. As exposed in a recent shocking documentary on BBC Scotland over half these animals were calves of 3 and 4 weeks old which went all the way to Spain and Italy to be fattened. Some of those animals may have then be sold on to slaughterhouses in Africa and the Middle East and killed under horrific conditions which would be illegal here.

John Robins of Animal Concern Advice Line has asked every MSP to sign a Parliamentary Motion calling for a total ban on the export of animals for fattening and slaughter. He stated; “The Scottish Government and the National Farmers Union Scotland admit they have no control over what happens to animals once they leave Scotland and the protection of our welfare legislation. The only way to protect them from long, stressful journeys and perhaps to be killed while fully conscious is to keep them in Scotland. Finished and slaughtered here under our high welfare standards they could then be exported as chilled or frozen premium products instead of frightened babies. Scottish Government Ministers should be ashamed of themselves for aiding and abetting this sick trade.”

EDITORS NOTES: Please find below a copy of our hard–hitting e–mail sent to MSPs earlier today.

Monday 24th September 2018

Dear Member of the Scottish Parliament,

I write regarding the export of discard male calves from Scottish dairy herds to finishing units in Spain and Italy.

No doubt most of you will have watched the BBC programme Disclosure (series 1 episode 2) — The Dark Side of Dairy. If not, you can watch it on the BBC iPlayer for another 11 months via this link:

The programme followed the journey of one consignment of the 5,595 male calves exported by Scottish dairy farms each year for finishing in Italy and Spain. This is only a small number of the dairy discards, a few are reared here for rosy veal but most are killed at or shortly after birth as, coming from dairy herds, they do not have the physique preferred for profitable beef production.

P&O Ferries stopped carrying live animals destined for fattening and/or slaughter some years ago on welfare grounds. However unbeknown to most they had a special arrangement with the Scottish Government to transport these calves from Cairnryan to Larne at the start of their long journey to Spain and Italy. Immediately the programme aired I contacted the CEO and Head of PR at P&O Ferries and asked them to watch the documentary and immediately implement their welfare policy on their Scotland to Ireland service. This they did and, despite Scottish Government protests, P&O have told me their ban will remain in force.

This episode has embarrassed the Scottish Government and Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing in particular. Earlier this year, when Michael Gove announced he would hold a consultation with a view to banning live exports from England for fattening and slaughter abroad, Mr. Ewing jumped into the mire without even stopping to put on his green wellies. His Canutian stance against any live export ban outraged the public including many within his own party.

Sadly the Government, like the young calves prodded to get them back onto their transporter after a rest break, has got the wrong end of the stick here.

Everything shown in the documentary of the transport of the animals to their destination in Spain was perfectly legal. That doesn't make it right to take calves from their mothers at a few days old and ship them half way across Europe, but regretfully it is permitted in law.

What everyone appears to be conveniently overlooking on this issue is that in the documentary and subsequent news interviews NFUS spokespeople had to admit that once animals are sold and exported to their new owners their fate lies entirely in the hands of those new owners.

We did not see inside the fattening units the calves were sent to. Intensive crated veal units were so cruel they were banned in the UK in 1990 and should have been withdrawn in the rest of Europe in 2006. The UK started producing rose or pink veal shortly after the ban on veal crates but in Europe the taste for the anaemic flesh of white veal persists. This means restricting the calves to a diet of skimmed milk without any roughage and a regime of little exercise to produce an unnaturally very soft, white flesh. Even without the cruel crates this strict regime denies the animals many of their natural behaviours.

The most horrific aspect of the live export trade came towards the end of the documentary with a short, censored scene of cattle being slaughtered in a North African abattoir. NFUS and the Scottish Government now appear to be at loggerheads with the BBC over whether or not the cattle seen in that scene originated in Scotland or elsewhere.

That is not important. NFUS admits that once out of Scotland no-one here has any control over what happens to the animals. If the continental owners of the calves want to profit from lucrative markets in North Africa and the Middle East then NFUS and the Scottish Government are powerless to stop them.

In North Africa and the Middle East they like their animals slaughtered while fully sentient. I understand that in the clip obtained by the BBC the slaughterers immobilised cattle by hamstringing them in full few of other animals awaiting slaughter. Once on the ground the animals had their throats slit. It can take 4 minutes or more for an eight–month–old calf to bleed out, lose consciousness and die.

It is not my job to promote the meat industry but below are links to more humane alternatives to sending dairy discards on a journey to hell.

The animals still die young but are spared being hauled across Europe and the very real possibility of being killed in a way which would earn the slaughterers a prison sentence in Scotland.

Instead of getting a very low price for unwanted live calves, farmers would have a valuable delicacy to sell here or export chilled or frozen. A tartan package containing a genuine high welfare Scottish product will attract premium prices around the globe.

Until these more humane farming practises are adopted on a wider scale I regret that a bullet at birth is kinder than putting these calves into the live export chain.

If you have not already done so I urge you to support Motion S5M-13785 from Colin Smyth MSP which calls for a “Ban on the Export of Live Animals for Slaughter and Fattening”. Please do not support the amendment put forward by Emma Harper MSP.

When you read Motion S5M–13785 you will learn that last year 3,073 sheep, 5,595 calves and 661 cattle were exported from Scotland for either slaughter or fattening. I strongly suggest you all have a look at any communications you might have issued on live exports earlier this year and in response to the current situation regarding dairy discards. I have seen copies of many e–mails and statements which play down, fail to mention or appear to contradict the fact that 3,073 sheep, 5,595 calves and 661 cattle were exported from Scotland for either slaughter or fattening in 2017.

If you did make yourself look stupid by sending any of your constituents misinformation on this issue I ask you to find out where that misinformation originated. Did a Government department, employee or Minister mislead you or your researchers on this? If you find out who is responsible I suggest the next piece of research they undertake is to find out how many Job Centres (or whatever they are now called) we have in Scotland, where their nearest one is and what time it opens on Tuesday morning.

Yours sincerely,

LINKS: Finlay's Ethical Dairy:
Rose Veal info: