Has BBC Scotland caused the death by shooting of thousands of days-old ‘boy’ calves and an indefensible waste of food?


© BBC and Channel 4

Tonight at 6:30pm, Jackie Bird announced proudly:

‘A ferry operator [P&O] is to stop carrying calves to Europe after animal welfare concerns were raised in an investigation by BBC Scotland’s Disclosure team.’

The decision by P&O is a panicked reaction to ‘Disclosure: The Dark Side of Dairy’, a deeply flawed and confused piece of work, already covered here:

Reporting Scotland lie about their own documentary to ‘beef-up’ the bad news for Scotland

Most important, was the BBC team’s failure to provide any concrete evidence of the transport of the very young calves beyond Northern Ireland, after a 2 hour-only journey. Finding that she had followed the same lorry from Larne to France, but now containing much older calves, we were asked to accept as evidence only verbal conversations she claimed to have had. I was not convinced.

BBC Scotland’s team knew that the only alternative to transporting and fattening calves for later slaughter is the shooting of the calves, within days of their birth. Farmer’s representatives made this clear and expressed their disquiet at having to choose the shooting option. It must be a deeply harrowing experience to shoot a virtually new-born baby animal and, from a waste management perspective, the incineration and the burial of ash from thousands of calves, plus the failure to add all of that food into the chain seems utterly indefensible.

In their populist and shoddy reporting, BBC Scotland seems not to have looked at evidence, properly or perhaps at all. See, for example, this, available to them in March:

‘The number of male calves being killed straight after birth is on the rise again, despite efforts by the dairy industry to end the practice known as ‘the dirty secret’. A Guardian analysis shows that it can cost a farmer up to £30 per calf to sell it on for beef or veal, while early disposal costs just £9. A growing number of farmers feel compelled to take the latter option, with 95,000 killed on-farm in the most recent set of figures.’


BBC Scotland has rushed in here, ill-informed, seeking popular approval and, if they can, harm for the reputation of the Scottish Government. The costs may be considerable, but will they face any?





16 thoughts on “Has BBC Scotland caused the death by shooting of thousands of days-old ‘boy’ calves and an indefensible waste of food?

  1. Contrary September 12, 2018 / 7:33 am

    Well the bbc must be pleased with themselves. I read you other article, haven’t seen the documentary, heard GMS bizarre reports, and watched the link Thepnr left in comments, on the questions to government in Holyrood. From what I can tell, there is no actual evidence of mistreatment of any cows or calves. I was shocked by the questions/answers in Holyrood, that they thought this a valid complaint by the BBC and reacted to it.

    What exactly do people think goes on in the farming world? Do people really not know how they get their milk? Farmers are mostly running bread-line businesses, they don’t have margins and huge CEO salaries. We heard news after the hot dry summer that farmers were having to sell sheep early & cheap because they couldn’t feed them – I am sure dairy farms were struggling too, farms will likely already be teetering on the edge as it is, and now they have this to contend with. Do you not think that if the farms were able to sustain a large young bull population, they would already be doing it?

    It looks to me that this has been carefully crafted to (a) put Scottish dairy farms out of business (b) stop Scottish exports, to reduce our direct export business and reduce our contact with the outside world (c) put pressure on Scottish government to spend money where none needed to be spent (maybe if Westminster had actually given Scottish farms their share of the Euro grants over the years things wouldn’t be so precarious?), and distract them from other issues. I can’t see the benefit to Scottish society or economy in this.

    Don’t get me wrong, animal welfare IS important, but you have to be realistic about where your dairy, and beef, comes from, and how it comes about. We aren’t talking about puppies here, they are animals bred for food and other products. And you have to remember cows are not very good for the environment, for various reasons.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. annraynet September 12, 2018 / 8:53 am

    I don’t know how the economics of this works but a cow does have to give birth to produce milk and, statistically, half the calves born will be male and so no use for producing milk. Shooting them at birth is cruel, costs money for disposal and no farmer wants to kill a healthy young animal.
    I watched the BBC programme and agree it was very one-sided and the attempt to track a consignment of calves across Europe was unconvincing. However, one farmer was allowed to express a solution towards the end, namely to leave the male calves with their mothers for a few weeks then put them out to grass to fatten up for sale later. I think this product is called rose veal (as distinct from exclusively milk-fed white veal) and there is a market for it, though limited at present.
    If there is a market for lamb, rather than mutton, why can this rose veal not be promoted as a healthy alternative, low in fat and avoiding the present hard choice that farmers face of kill or export live at just a few weeks old. Another possibility would be to allow them to live longer on grass and use the meat for lower quality beef products such as pies.
    What happens in other countries? Perhaps they do it have such an intensive dairy industry, and that is the problem. Perhaps we need to rethink our priorities.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Alasdair Macdonald September 12, 2018 / 8:53 am

    I endorse the points in Contrary’s final paragraph about the need to have compassionate practices in farming and had the GMS ‘trailer’ focussed on that it would have been fairer. I have eaten veal, but have not done so for more than 50 years. The only times I have eaten it were on school trips to Germany and Switzerland in the 1960s. It was a regular item on the menus, whereas, despite having a mother who was a cook, I had never eaten it at home, nor can I recall seeing it on sale in local butcher shops.

    There is another point. These calves are being ferried from Cairnryan to Larne, from Scotland to Northern Ireland, i.e. a movement of livestock within the UK. Is there any material difference between that and, say, ferrying calves from Mull to Oban or trucking them from Dumfries to Glasgow?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Alex campbell September 12, 2018 / 10:08 am

    Farmers don’t have to shoot the male calves, they can raise them ethically as other farmers do. This means keeping them with their mothers until they are fully weaned then going on and raising them as beef cattle until they are 18 months old. This at least gives them a life. In addition, farmers can use sex-selected semen so that very few, if any, male calves are born.


  5. Legerwood September 12, 2018 / 10:25 am

    I wonder when they – BBC and others – will start agitating about the transport of live cattle from the Islands where some of the journey times are longer than the Cairnryan to NI trip?

    Bearing in mind too that some of the Islands don’t have abbatoir. For example, Orkney does not have one at the moment but hopes to have one by next year. Being able to rear the cattle to a certain stage, .ca 18 months or so, then sell them on for final fattening to farmers etc on the mainland is one of the ways that farming of cattle – premium cattle at that – is viable.

    There is a description here of a cattle farmer on Papa Westray. Note the last 2-3 paragraphs describing the transport conditions for the animals.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. acinderinsnow September 12, 2018 / 12:09 pm

    People who consume dairy are the ones causing the deaths of these babies, not the BBC.


    • mogabee September 13, 2018 / 9:23 pm

      If you have nothing worthwhile to add to this, best say nothing…


  7. Thepnr September 12, 2018 / 1:15 pm

    Michael Gove it seems, appears to be backtracking over the proposal made by the Brexiteers such as Gove, that the UK government could bring in a new law banning the export of live animals for slaughter but only after Brexit. As currently their hands are tied by EU red tape and regulations you see.

    Interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme when asked about banning live exportof animals, he replied:

    “I am minded to restrict them yes, and I’m looking at the evidence to see how we can make appropriate, or take appropriate steps,”

    Asked directly whether he was still minded to ban it, he said:

    “I’m minded to take every step we can in order to ensure that we restrict animal exports and that we safeguard animal welfare.”


    It’s not only cattle that are exported live from the UK of course, there are thousands of sheep and pigs for example and the majority of them from England. I think the BBC should make a documentary about these other animals now as well. C’mon BBC get on it.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. epicyclo September 12, 2018 / 2:29 pm

    We can solve this problem if everyone who thinks this is cruel simply stops eating meat and consuming dairy products.

    Otherwise it’s rank hypocrisy.

    Nah, didn’t think so…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Roy September 12, 2018 / 4:53 pm

      Good point. I suppose you will volunteer to cull all the unneeded animals then? Nah, didn’t think so!

      I suppose you will finance the complete revamp of agriculture then? Nah, didn’t think so!

      I suppose you will support the massive cultural change financially then? Nah, didn’t think so!

      I could go on but my point is please think before you insult others first.

      As a secondary point, who are you to deny others a choice? You have made a choice but would deny it to others? Isn’t that rank hypocrisy?

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Al Dossary September 12, 2018 / 2:41 pm

    Education and a change in eating habits is needed. We stopped eating it in the 1970s due to campaigns over the atrocious conditions they were kept in (small wooden crates).

    Ironically prior to the BSE debacle (who in their right mind would consider feeding ground up dead cattle to living cattle in cattle feed!) the English were exporting 400,000 veal calves yearly to the continent.

    In the middle east I see veal on sale all over in the butchery depth of supermarkets. In Europe it is widely available – why not the UK

    The story is nothing but a cheap, thinly disguised attack on Scotland by the BBC.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Contrary September 12, 2018 / 7:48 pm

    Heh heh, John, this does seem to an emotive subject judging by comments – if only people would be so emotive over how their country was run and how it should be run eh? Ah well, we have been indoctrinated to think we can do nothing about it.

    Al D, I agree with your comment, and add that I see nothing wrong with eating horse either. BSE came about because cattle were fed mashed sheep brain though – they didn’t realise scrapies could jump the species barrier (particularly after a lot of processing), and, although it sounds a bit mad feeding herbivores meat, it was part of the cyclic economy (trying to use all parts, utilising waste products) that farmers seem to have always tried to employ. Scrapies is prevalent in sheep population I believe, and always has been.

    Wasn’t there a ban on Irish beef for a while too, way back when, because they had no controls on the hormones they pumped their cattle full of?

    Wonder how it’s going to work out after Brexit and we have to trade with America, I doubt they have much in the way of ethical farming or restrictions on chemical content of their meat. I don’t know that for fact! Just making some wild assumptions. Just saying, Westminster politicians are really not going to care about ethical when it comes to them making profit.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s