Joanna Lumley will spearhead a protest calling on the Government to keep a ban on live veal calf exports, 10 years after the practice prompted angry demonstrations across Britain.

Campaigners are now preparing to fight the reinstatement of the trade, as bans on the export of British beef are dropped next week. Tomorrow, the actress best known for her portrayal of Patsy in the BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous will present a giant postcard to the animal welfare minister Ben Bradshaw, on the steps of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), calling for last- minute action to save the calves.

"It is simply unacceptable to treat living creatures this way," said Lumley, who will be heading the protest along with Gwyn Prosser, the Labour MP for Dover and Deal.

The exports were banned in 1996 because of the BSE crisis, but British farmers will once again be able to send veal calves to be fattened on the Continent from Wednesday after the European Commission agreed the disease was no longer a threat.

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), which is organising tomorrow's presentation, is adamant that the practice will lead to half-a-million calves a year enduring immense suffering and conditions in other countries which would be illegal in Britain. An opinion poll in 2002 found that 78 per cent of the public were against the long-distance transport of live animals.

"Now all we've got to do is get the people in our country to understand what we're doing in our land to our animals which are our responsibility. We make these animals be born, we breed them up. They're entirely our responsibility; their lives and their deaths are our responsibility," added Lumley.

Philip Lymbery, chief executive of CIWF, said: "We are calling on Defra to change the fate of thousands of calves doomed for export and suffering.

"This means actively encouraging farmers to rear male dairy calves in the UK where conditions for calves are better, and securing welfare standards on farms in the rest of the EU that are equal to them or better."

The National Farmers' Union insists the past decade has seen "phenomenal" developments in animal welfare with the outlawing of crates and the introduction of air-cooling systems.

Rowen West-Henzell of CIWF said: "People feel passionately about this issue and there will be protests."In February 1995 Jill Phipps, a 31-year-old activist, died when she was crushed to death during a protest at Baginton airport, near Coventry.