The Orkney News previously reported on the issue of the distances livestock have to be transported. P & O Ferries have now ceased the transportation to Northern Ireland for the purposes of onward journeys to Spain.
On the 11th of September Christine Grahame MSP SNP used topical questions to again ask if the Scottish Government will ban the export of livestock for fattening for slaughter.
The questions raised by MSPs from different political parties concerned about animal welfare and the answers from The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment ,Mairi Gougeon can be viewed here, it starts at 11:28.
Christine Grahame said:
“I make it plain that I do not blame the farming community or, indeed, P&O Ferries for shipping such livestock to Northern Ireland. I also understand the EU restrictions.
“I was pleased to hear the Minister reflect on ethical farming, such as that which is practised by David and Wilma Finlay at their farm in Gatehouse of Fleet.
“The concept of animals as sentient beings has changed our whole concept of animal welfare. There remains widespread concern about removal of weeks-old bull calves from their mothers, which is distressing for mother and calf, and the transportation of those calves from Scotland—not England—over, in some cases, six days, to be fattened and slaughtered, whether or not we agree with the conditions in which they are transported.”
Mark Ruskell MSP, Scottish Greens said:
“Does the minister acknowledge that there is a huge difference between a ferry trip for sheep in the Shetland Isles and the 135-hour journey that sheep and dairy calves are making to Spain and on to Africa? Does she accept that a ban on live exports will not lead to a ban on exports of cattle and sheep within the UK?”
Edward Mountain MSP, Conservative a beef farmer said:
“I am part of a family partnership that produces beef cattle. We sell breeding cattle, mainly in the UK and in Ireland.
“The “Disclosure” programme that was aired last night does not accurately reflect the high standards of welfare in the industry that I have known and worked in for the 39 years of my working life. I ask the minister whether she will work with the UK Government to ensure that the high standards that are practised in the UK farming industry are replicated across the world.”
Mike Rumbles MSP, Liberal Democrat said:
“There is an alternative to slaughtering calves at a few weeks old, which is to rear them here for veal production and to promote that product for the UK consumer. The minister has just said that she will do everything she can to maintain high standards. Will she take positive action to promote consumption of Scottish veal by UK consumers, so that we can make it productive for farmers.”
Claudia Beamish MSP, Labour said:
“BBC “Disclosure” programme highlighted the Galloway farm of Wilma and David Finlay, which I have visited. They have an ethical system in which losses from lower milk yield are dealt with through selling the male cows at 18 months instead of their either being shot at birth or transported at up to four weeks, which could make up the difference.
“In the interim, will the Scottish Government consider the possibility of supporting the development of such herds through transition subsidies? Also, will the minister agree with me that surely the only way to stop mistreatment is to ban live exports, as Scottish Labour and other Opposition parties including the Greens think we should?”
Mairi Gougeon, The Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, in the Scottish Government, who has not yet visited the ethical dairy farm which many of the speakers mentioned did agree to visit the business.
Mairi Gougeon said:
“The welfare of the animals is of paramount importance, which is why the Scottish Government has undertaken a project—it started in January this year and is due to run until January next year—in which we are monitoring every single stage of the process, to ensure that we are adhering to the highest possible welfare standards and do not end up in a situation in which animals are being mistreated.”
Referring to the project many times in her answers the Minister said:
“Being able to get the scientific evidence and the data is exactly why we are undertaking that work, to see what improvements we need to make, if any.”
Reporter: Fiona Grahame