I keep 350 ewes and this part of my business gives me great satisfaction. Lambing is a cold and monotonous chore, especially in the middle of a January night, but nothing can beat the feeling when the new-born is pronounced fit and healthy and takes its place out in the field.
Farmers care about animals. We, too, get distressed when we see television pictures of animals being abused. The thought that some of those lambs might be from my own farm fills me with concern. That is partly why, as NFU president, I have spent so much time and effort working with other organisations and the Government to achieve better conditions for animals transported throughout Europe.
This week the Government has announced measures to control the way in which animals can be transported from this country. They are tough and will have the force of the law behind them. They will apply to everyone who handles the animal during transport or export. Hauliers or farmers who break the rules will be in court and out of business.
I have given full backing to the proposals on behalf of the farming industry as I believe they offer a real chance for positive action to protect animals without losing our export markets.
But let's not forget that farming is a business. The lambs we produce in Britain are of such high quality that there is a strong demand from France and other parts of western Europe.
Our continental customers want their lamb slaughtered locally and butchered in their own style. If they don't get it from us they will turn elsewhere, for example to Poland and Russia and other places where there is less concern for animals. So your bans will probably force animals to be hauled even greater distances in worse conditions.
If you continue the bans, will you also continue to accept consignments of meat that have not been produced according to the higher welfare standards that apply in this country? How many lorry-loads of veal will you accept? How many tons of pork and bacon from herds where sows are unnacceptably confined?
Take the idea further. Will you continue to accept other products that do not meet the high UK standards for pesticides and other environmental benefits?
You have said throughout that your concern is for animal welfare. Good. So is mine.
So let us all - farmers, hauliers and ferry operators - work together, alongside the respected welfare groups, to make sure that every possible action is taken to care properly for our animals.
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