The Department is in regular contact, on a range of issues, with bodies that represent farmers.
I am aware of the public concern over the trade in live calf exports. However, this is a lawful trade and European Union (EU) law must be observed. The United Kingdom (UK) cannot place a unilateral ban on the export of calves. The Government have consistently said that we prefer a trade in meat to the long distance transport of live animals to slaughter.
Consequently, we are seeking to encourage the industry to develop alternative uses for calves other than live export, and welcome the joint initiative from Compassion in World Farming and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to bring together welfare groups, the dairy and beef industry and the retail sector to discuss this issue. They hosted an event last July which I attended.
The industry has developed domestic veal rearing systems that satisfy robust welfare requirements, but the opportunities to sell the product in the UK are very limited while there remains strong commercial demand for veal calves on the continent. DEFRA recently commissioned a study to look at the economic drivers and potential for developing alternative markets to the export of veal calves. The report confirmed that the domestic market for home-produced veal is resistant to growth. It did, however, conclude that there are commercially attractive opportunities for rearing dairy calves for the growing domestic market for manufacturing beef. This is promising and DEFRA will continue to play its part in encouraging such alternative uses.