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Calves in Transport | Credit: Compassion in World Farming

Compassion Court Battle Closes Scottish Calf Exports

I am so pleased to announce that, having spent months defending the inhumane transport of unweaned calves from Scotland to Europe in the face of our campaign, the Scottish Government has finally conceded that this trade was in breach of the legislation and has stopped calf exports.

This landmark decision brings an end to intolerably long journeys, where calves were sent as far as Spain in contravention of UK and EU legislation. Journeys for these very young animals could last up to 23 hours without food.

Live calf exports is an issue that we have always campaigned fearlessly against.

So, I am particularly pleased to celebrate this huge milestone victory in Compassion’s decades-long battle to end this cruel and unnecessary trade. 

Without doubt, our judicial review proceedings played a key role in forcing the Scottish Government to take action, even though it spent months defending the indefensible.

Launched in February, our judicial review argued that EU legislation limits export journeys to a maximum of eight hours, only permitting longer journeys if certain conditions can be met. For unweaned calves, after nine hours of travel, one such condition is that they should be given a rest period of an hour and given water and “if necessary fed”. Scientific evidence clearly shows that unweaned calves being sent on long journeys must be fed milk replacer after nine hours’ travel. But it simply isn’t possible to feed calves while they are on board a truck. Therefore, exports from Scotland via Ramsgate to Spain should never have been permitted.

I spoke last night to the man who oversaw our landmark campaign through the courts, our chief policy advisor, Peter Stevenson, who explained, “Our court case has played a major part in finally bringing this cruel and unnecessary live export trade in calves from Britain to an end. However, for certainty we must have legislation. With Brexit, Westminster and the devolved Governments could, and should, ban live exports of all animals for further fattening and slaughter.”

With the Scottish calf trade all but halted, our next step will be urging the EU Commission to advise all 27 EU Member States that journeys for unweaned calves cannot in most cases legally exceed nine hours. We are now moving to a two-pronged approach – effectively ending all UK live exports and persuading the EU to end journeys across the Continent longer than 9 hours.


Who could forget that on 10th January, a tiny, unweaned calf born on Christmas Day (so identified by its large yellow ear tag) was spotted by Lizzie of Kent Animal Defenders; the calves had been loaded onto a lorry with 200 others in Annan, southwest Scotland. Delays en-route to Ramsgate in Kent, and then on a vessel that took 14 hours to cross the Channel, meant that the calves did not arrive at their destination, believed to be Spain, until 14th January. The calves were forced to endure a journey of more than 100 hours and that little Christmas calf became the tragic symbol of animal suffering that lies behind the live export trade in sentient animals. | Credit Lizzie, Kent Animal Defenders

I would like to pay tribute to Compassion’s dedicated staff team who’ve worked so hard on this issue. Over the years we’ve fought many important battles on live exports, including through the courts. We will continue to fight not only for calves, but also to end live sheep exports from UK for slaughter abroad – some are now being sent as far afield as Bulgaria.

I would also like to pay particular thanks to you, Compassion’s wonderful supporters for giving so generously to fund the judicial review proceedings against the Scottish Government. We no longer need a final hearing as the government in Holyrood has instructed its Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) – responsible for approving export journeys – to refuse all further applications for unweaned calf exports that breach the time limits in the regulations.

As with all of the legal action we’ve taken in defence of animals, the firm intent is to bring about concrete change for animals and, together, we did that.

Calf exports from Scotland have essentially been halted. 

Thank you for helping make that change happen.

In the words of Dr Nick Palmer who heads up our UK office, “let’s now make this the lever to end this evil trade once and for all!” 


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Thank you.

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