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Animal Welfare

Volume 450: debated on Friday 20 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how the Government monitor the welfare of animals exported for slaughter abroad. (94269)

The Government are committed to the welfare of all animals during transport. Transporters involved in exports must be authorised and submit route plans before all export journeys. These plans are checked to ensure compliance with journey times before journeys may start.

All animals are inspected by a local veterinary inspector prior to loading at the departure premises to ensure the animals meet health requirements and are fit for the intended journey. The State Veterinary Service also carries out additional random and targeted checks during loading at the departure premises or the port of departure.

New European Union (EU)-wide welfare in transport rules will come into force in January 2007 under Council Regulation No 1/2005. The UK supported the new regulation as it contains much to help improve animal welfare in transport, such as improved enforcement, and new training and authorisation procedures.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many consignments of calves were exported from Dover on 11 October 2006; how many calves were included in each consignment; what the final destination of each consignment was; how long elapsed between the arrival of each consignment at Dover docks and the departure of the ship with the calves on board; why the departure of the ship was delayed; what proportion of the calves were still on a milk diet; whether the calves were provided with food and liquid while waiting at Dover docks to be loaded on to the ship; for what reason the calves were not taken to be unloaded and given food, liquid and rest; whether any calf was destroyed at Dover docks; whether the calves were unloaded and given food, liquid and 24 hours' rest after their arrival on the continent; and what arrangements he plans to put in place to prevent further lengthy delays at Dover docks. (94593)

On 11 October, there were six vehicles carrying 14 consignments of calves (totalling 1,167 animals). The consignments were destined for Belgium, France and Spain and spent between nine and a half and 15 hours at Dover port.

The ship's departure was delayed for a number of reasons. Its sailing from Dover was originally delayed owing to the late arrival of a vehicle. The vessel then had to leave its berth to accommodate another ferry and, on its return, had to wait for the tide to rise sufficiently for the loading ramp to be used. At Dunkerque, a further delay was caused when the pilot was diverted to other essential duties. On return to Dover, staff from the State Veterinary Service (SVS) re-examined the animals to check their condition before departure. Before this check could be completed, the vessel had to leave berth again to accommodate a ferry before the calves could finally be loaded and the ship could depart.

All the calves were considered to be unweaned. During the morning, SVS staff at Dover considered that they needed to be fed and offered liquid. However, there is no staging point in the south-east and no facility within the port to make up warm milk formula. No single UK staging point could take all the animals so the vehicles were sent to the nearest suitable staging point or destination, as appropriate. Four vehicles were served with notices to proceed to a staging point close to the port of arrival and unload the animals for 24 hours' rest, feed and water. Checks are being carried out to confirm if the vehicles went to the staging point as directed. If they did not, it would be an offence.

One calf was humanely destroyed at Dover because it was in a state of collapse.

SVS staff are working with local authority enforcement officers to determine appropriate enforcement action and potential offences committed. We will also be addressing the broader issues of effective communication and contingency planning with those engaged in the live calf export trade.