Exporter convicted of cruelty to calves

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The Independent Online
The country's biggest exporter of calves was convicted yesterday of cruelty to livestock during 37-hour journeys without breaks to customers 1,100 miles away in France.

Geoffrey Hall's York-based company, which has been involved in charter flights to evade protesters' blockades, was fined a total of £12,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £9,971. Albert Hall Farms was fined £3,500 on each of two charges of transporting calves in a way likely to cause suffering. It was ordered to pay a further £5,000 for failing to keep proper records of two export consignments shadowed during 1993 by an undercover squad of RSPCA inspectors.

Magistrates at Easingwold, North Yorkshire, also convicted two hauliers and four lorry drivers of a total of 14 charges; all seven defendants had pleaded not guilty and will appeal.

The County's Trading Standards Department, which brought the prosecution in information supplied by the RSCA, said the case established that UK animal welfare laws could be invoked against exporters taking cargoes to Europe.Gordon Gresty, county trading standards officer, said exporters should beware. "Welfare is paramount, and all those involved in transporting livestock have a responsibility to ensure they comply with UK requirements," Mr Gresty said.

Mr Hall is the biggest volume exporter of calves from the UK, with an average of 360 animals a day moving through his pens at the height of his business.

Protests that have closed many ports to live animal exports this year forced Mr Hall to find new channels. He is director of a charter company that was using the Boeing freighter, used to carry calves for slaughter in Holland, which crashed last month near Coventry airport.

Albert Hall Farms is now trading at a loss, the court was told. Its export trade in calves had been worth £26m a year.

The seven defendants refused to comment but said in a statement they were "very disappointed". Philip and Ken Lane, brothers from Retford, Nottinghamshire, were each fined a total of £1,400 for transporting the calves in lorries they operated under circumstances likely to cause suffering. The four drivers were given conditional discharges for one year.