Dear William Waldegrave

You say you cannot stop your calves ending up in veal crates. But you can easily stop the export of live farm animals - so do it now, says the RSPCA's director general
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Indy Lifestyle Online
As Agriculture Secretary, you have a special responsibility for animal welfare and that carries with it the need to ensure that any farming methods with which you are associated are of the highest standard possible.

We believe you do want to improve the lives of Britain's 750 million farm animals, and millions more in Europe, too. But it's not enough just to want to do so. Now is the time to act, to stop the live transport of all animals sent to the Continent for slaughter and further fattening.

The RSPCA believes it is simply not necessary to send any animal abroad to die. Humane slaughter in Britain near the point of production is what is needed. Support that, and the call for a maximum eight-hour journey time, and very few animals would be transported abroad from this country.

The need for debate on this issue has never been greater, and the time for thrashing out a solution is now. We urge you, using your ministerial authority, to get together with farmers, exporters and representatives of the livestock trade, as well as animal welfarists like ourselves to develop humane alternatives to the current situation.

You say that those protesting against the export of live animals should get behind you and campaign in Europe for an end to the continental veal crate system. Our attempts to do so are hindered while you continue to allow week-old British calves to be exported into that barbaric system - a system the Government banned in this country five years ago.

In spite of the clear lead given by the European Parliament, recent negotiations with other European Agriculture Ministers ended in deadlock; yet we are told you cannot take effective action on live transport unless you do so at European level. For more than 15 years we have worked hard to make the animal welfare lobby one of the most effective channels for public opinion among all the competing interests in Europe.

Britain led, and still leads the way, in Europe with the veal crate ban. On live transport generally, and on veal crates in particular, the British public has said loudly, clearly, vociferously and often: enough is enough. The force of feeling is so strong that it has even brought children and old age pensioners out on to the icy streets night after night to protest peacefully outside Shoreham Port.

Now it's up to you, Mr Waldegrave. You are in a position to make changes to the laws of this land and to persuade those in the governments that make up the European Union that this appalling, unnecessary, cruel trade in live animals must not continue. Weurge you to bring in a maximum eight-hour journey time as a first step. Then, leading the way in animal welfare, Britain can fight its corner in Europe with a strong voice and a clear conscience.

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