Another Push at the UK Veal Market

UK - Healthy cows are being killed because there is no market for them, but now animal rights groups are trying to reverse this trend and push veal back on to UK plates.
calendar icon 25 September 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

The UK, which has some of the toughest animal-welfare laws in Europe, and Ireland are the only countries in the region that slaughter large numbers - one in three - of new-born dairy bull calves. The same animal-welfare groups whose campaigns led to plummeting veal sales since the 1980s now are enlisting retailers such as Tesco Plc and Marks & Spencer Group Plc in a bid to build a local market to rear the animals for beef and veal rather than export them to Europe or kill them on the farm.

Tesco, the U.K.'s biggest supermarket chain, this year said it would buy the bulls to be reared on Tesco beef farms. London-based Marks & Spencer, a clothing retailer that also sells food, in July started selling only British-raised veal. Rather than killing the calves, some farmers send them to continental Europe, where there is a market for veal.

Tesco banned farmers that supply it with milk from exporting bull calves, the primary concern of animal-welfare groups, which oppose how the calves are transported and reared on the continent. Tesco, based in Cheshunt, England, can't prevent farmers from killing newborns, spokesman David Nieberg said.

Those moves were inspired by the Beyond Calf Exports Stakeholders Forum, a group of retailers, farmers and activists that includes the Horsham, England-based Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Compassion in World Farming, the Stoneleigh, England-based National Farmers' Union, and retailers such as Tesco and McDonald's Corp.

The forum is an attempt to create a market-based solution to the issue of calf exports and killings while avoiding the clashes seen in the 1980s between animal-welfare groups and the farming industry over the use of cramped crates to rear calves for veal. Those protests led to bans on such practices and crushed the veal market in the U.K.

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