Animal campaigns charity OneKind has welcomed today’s decision (Tuesday 11th September) by P&O Ferries to stop transporting live animals to Northern Ireland with immediate effect.
The statement from P&O Ferries 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.”
For several years now, P&O Ferries has had a policy of transporting only breeding livestock, stating: “we will not ship any livestock intended for fattening or slaughter.” However, up to now the company has continued to accept dairy calves for shipping from Scotland to Northern Ireland, whence they would ultimately travel to southern Europe.
The statement was highlighted by Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP, in response to a question on live exports by Christine Grahame MSP. The question followed on from a BBC One Scotland Documentary last night (Monday 10th September), The Dark Side of Dairy, which exposed the cruel and inhumane practice of live exports.
Sarah Moyes, OneKind Campaigner said:
“The long-distance transport of live animals throughout Europe is a serious animal welfare problem. We are delighted to see that P&O Ferries has taken the decision to stop transporting young calves destined for slaughter after rearing on in continental Europe, or even further afield in North Africa or the Middle East.
“Calves transported in this way will have to endure long, hot journeys which will last several days. Often there are insufficient water supplies, uncontrolled temperatures and inadequate rest periods and there is no guarantee that slaughterhouse conditions overseas will meet Scottish animal welfare standards.”
The Scottish Government has previously said it will not be taking part in any UK-wide scheme to prevent the exportation of live animals, despite the UK Government saying it will consider introducing a ban on live exports of animals for slaughter once the UK leaves the European Union.
Today, (Tuesday 11th September), Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment stated:
“This Government remains absolutely committed to ensuring that livestock in Scotland are reared, transported and treated throughout their lives humanely, with respect, to the highest possible welfare standards.”
Ms Gougeon also described Scottish Government monitoring of animal welfare in calf transports to Spain, which she said was the first study of its kind.
A number of MSPs urged the Minister to examine alternatives to removing surplus male calves from their mothers and sending them abroad, such as ‘ethical’ dairying where calves remain with their mothers and reared for slaughter in Scotland.
Sarah Moyes continued:
“We are disappointed to hear that the Scottish Government is not ready to commit to stopping the long-distance trade in very young calves. We welcome the scrutiny of current standards and are pleased with the renewed focus on alternatives to shooting or transporting male calves. However, until a ban is in place, our animals will continue to suffer and Scotland’s reputation as country of animal lovers will be at risk.”