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Cruelty claims over starved bobby calves

Off to the slaughter … a calf that will be made into veal for export. Photo: Animals AustraliaANIMALS AUSTRALIA has begun a nationwide campaign using images of calves to prevent a new legal standard that would allow the abattoir-bound offspring of dairy cows to be denied liquid food for the last 30 hours of their lives.

Calling on the public to ”demand a kinder future” for the male bobby calves bred annually so their mothers will generate milk, the animal rights group claims the calves are treated cruelly as dairy industry waste.

About 700,000 dairy-bred calves aged five days or less are sent for slaughter annually. The meat is usually exported as veal.

To end the practice, Animals Australia has placed on its website a video about the calves’ journey to death.

”We are totally opposed to 30 hours [off feed]. It’s not ethical and not scientifically credible. Most will be kept in abattoirs overnight without food or bedding, so they will be cold and hungry,” said the organisation’s executive director, Glenys Oogjes.

She wants consumers to oppose the 30-hour proposal, which is part of the Land Transport Standard due to be finalised by primary industries ministers later this year.

She claims the industry and government have not advertised public consultation on the standard which has a submission deadline of next Thursday.

The RSPCA has released its own submission to the proposed “time off feed standard” in which it recommends a maximum eight hours off feed, and points out that the role of Government regulation is to strike a balance between the needs of the livestock production industries and the needs of the animals concerned.

“The recommendation to adopt a 30-hour time off feed limit for bobby calves does not strike a balance,” the animal welfare organisation says.

“The proposed standard amendment will result in zero cost to industry and does nothing to improve the wlefare of bobby calves before, during and after transport. As susch, RSPCA Australia does not support this recommendation.”

The organisation says that the approach it advocates is the euthanasia of bobby calves on farm or, where transport is considered necessary, direct consignment to the abattoir and slaughter as soon as possible upon arrival with a maximum time off feed of 18 hours as the “outer legal limit”.

Animals Australia accused dairy farmers of keeping the fate of bobby calves secret because of potential public revulsion about newborn animals being taken from their mothers, then slaughtered.

But the chairman of the animal health and welfare unit of Australian Dairy Farmers, David Basham, said the cruelty and secrecy claims were ”rubbish” and that the consultation had been widely publicised.

The calves were not a waste product, but provided important farm income. ”We are making sure we are not wasting a meat product by euthanasing those calves on farm,” he said. ”We shouldn’t apply emotion … otherwise we wouldn’t be able to feed our world population.”

He disputed Ms Oogjes’s claims that a dairy industry-commissioned Melbourne University study endorsing the 30-hour standard was not peer reviewed. He also questioned her assertion that a calf usually eats five times a day, saying as a farmer he had seen cows feed calves in the morning, then hide them in reeds all day while they graze.

”They are trying to apply human standards on calves … Probably the worst thing you can do is to feed too often because it stimulates the stomach too much and then the calf gets diarrhoea and that leads to death,” he said.

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