French vets threaten calf shipment

Lack of feeding machine causes row, write Ian MacKinnon and Danny Penma n
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The Independent Online
French agriculture ministry vets, responsible for the welfare of calves transported to Dieppe from Britain, are threatening to halt the trade unless the company involved takes new measures to ensure the animals' well-being, it was claimed yesterd ay.

Vets who inspect the holding areas where the calves are rested after their journey from Shoreham, West Sussex, have warned that unless special feeding equipment is installed by tomorrow, the animals will be returned to England, a former adviser to Compassion in World Farming said.

The threat to curtail the trade by International Trader's Ferry Ltd, a consortium established to get round the ending of livestock shipping by the ferry companies, emerged when David Whiting, now a freelance journalist specialising in animal welfare and environmental issues, interviewed Dr Maurice Venturini, the senior vet in Dieppe.

The warning came as pressure to end the trade through Shoreham mounted. Shipping agents at the port are increasing pressure on the harbour authorities to stop the trade, and the port agents' association is meeting today to discuss ways of getting other interested parties involved.

Demonstrators at the port are also becoming more sophisticated in their tactics. They plan to use "guerrilla" tactics to stop the convoys en route to the port.

Linked by an extensive network of spotters with radios and mobile phones, they hope to ambush the trucks before they reach the port compound.

However, it is the extensive police presence drafted in to curb the protests which have drawn the anger of the people of Shoreham, rather than the demonstrators.

Anne Baskerville, an antique dealer, warned that the heavy police presence - more than a thousand are involved in the daily operation - was making the county "ungovernable".

"How can they justify calling out all these police when the minister is part of this vile trade," she said. No wonder all our pleas to him were falling on deaf ears. People are at boiling point."

Beryl Ferrers-Guy, an accountant and former Tory councillor, said: "It's the beginning of the end of this government because you can't suppress a town or a county like this with so many police and get away with it. Now I know what it feels like to live in a police state. The police are trying to incite a riot. It's the police causing all the trouble."

However, respite for the people of Shoreham may ultimately come from the French side if the shipping company fails to heed the vets' warning to install a feeding machine.

Mr Whiting said that the vet had told the company that they must fit the feeding machine, which enables the young calves to suckle as they are too young to drink, a week before the trade began in the middle of last week. "If by tomorrow nothing is done, I shall send the animals back,'' Mr Venturini is quoted as saying.