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email received March 7 2006

I write to draw your attention to the lamentable animal welfare aspects of the Defra “Older Cattle Disposal Scheme”.

The scheme applies to cattle born before 1996 and provides compensation to farmers for their being deprived, by law, of the benefit of their meat, etc. It requires that these old cattle are taken to designated abattoirs to be killed before the carcasses are sent for destruction – burning, I presume.

I only realised the implications when I looked to put my old bull into the scheme. There are, I am told, only five abattoirs approved for the scheme in the whole of the UK. Consequently it is almost guaranteed that these old cattle will have a longer and more stressful journey to the abattoir than younger cattle. Since we make a point of sending all our animals that are to be killed to a small local abattoir, only about ten miles from the farm, the old bull would have faced a considerably longer and more unpleasant journey. In the end, I decided to forgo any financial benefit from his carcass and have him killed on the farm.

I cannot help questioning why Defra requires older cattle – all over ten years old – to undergo such an unnecessary and stressful end. Their carcasses are to be destroyed and there seems no reason whatsoever to put them through the stress of death at an abattoir – and, worse, at an abattoir far removed from their home farm. The cattle involved are all likely to be less able than younger beasts to withstand the knocks, bumps and stresses of a long journey, which might include herding with strange animals at an intermediate collection point. The scheme seems to require unnecessary and gratuitous cruelty to no justifiable end. Why on earth not allow these old cattle to be killed – by a vet or licensed slaughterer - on the farm?