Saturday, January 7, 2012

Another Laudable Target for Freight and Logistics Companies to Aim For

Joanna Back on the Campaign Trail as Eyes Turn Again Toward Live Animal Transport
Shipping News Feature

UK – EUROPE – NEW ZEALAND - Cutting polluting emissions and fuel consumption have taken up many column inches as the freight and logistics market concentrates on making a better impression with consumers and customers for the past few years. One particular branch of road haulage transport and sea freight which was highlighted vividly a few years ago had faded from the public consciousness however after initially engendering great public interest.

These days it is essential for large transport companies to demonstrate their ability to minimise damage to the environment but equally nothing deters consumers at the end of the supply chain more than knowing the search for economy is causing pain and suffering, be it to human or animal. Some years ago we saw mass demonstrations against the live export of domesticated animals being sent elsewhere for slaughter but, as so often happens, yesterdays newspapers became today’s chip wrappers and the issue, having gained some ground with some ferry companies suspending the export of live animals, fell from the collective notice of the public.

Certain changes continue to be made with the intention of improving the lot of creatures kept to supply food. The EU alterations to the keeping of hens which come into force this year in which minimum sizes for cages were made mandatory are a touchy subject for British farmers, all of whom have had to invest in new equipment to ensure they meet the new standards or be harshly prosecuted by the authorities whilst many other member countries have simply not enforced the regulations and do not employ the legislative clout to do so.

Now a formidable force for animal welfare has arrived on the scene in the comely shape of Ms Joanna Lumley OBE FRGS, heroine of the Ghurkhas and conqueror of Governments. Beware the curse of Lumley, not only did she embarrass the then Labour Government into a U turn with a successful crusade but her public humiliation of the MP Philip Woolas (currently banned from standing for office due to election fiddling) put then Prime Minister Gordon Brown into an impossible position after he promised the ex British soldiers would be offered fair rights of residence only for some then to immediately be refused entry rights.

Ms Lumley is doing what she is best at, starring as the centre piece on a bus side campaign around major British cities by Compassion in World Farming (video HERE) which is pressing for a minimising of miles covered and higher transport costs imposed at ironically christened port of Ramsgate, the only British ferry port which still handles live exports. Ms Lumley said:

“The numbers involved in live exports is shocking. We need to act on this ghastly trade now. 2012 is an auspicious year. This is the year for change! We ask farmers to please find alternatives and we need to make it more lucrative for them to slaughter their animals closer to home. Ask your MEP to enforce an 8 hour limit and stop and think about your food and where it comes from. I urge you all to take more responsibility."

As is often the case with these campaigns much of the rhetoric bandied about by supporters and objectors alike is fanciful with many of the constraints required simply impractical, the object however is a fair one, treatment of these animals needs to be as sensitive as is possible. The fact that road haulage operators regularly travel great distances in the UK to have animals slaughtered is simply because past Governments have supported the drive for bigger centralised slaughterhouses. The standards imposed there may be more manageable but it has meant the closure of many local businesses where the killing could take place close to the animal’s original home and therefore causing far less stress.

As for the campaigners’ talk of British lambs being shipped live for export the enforcement of regulations regarding travel times, watering etc will always be subject to the will, working practices and morals of the individual hauliers and drivers. One wonders how the campaign stands on Halal methods of slaughter given that it is reported that now virtually all lamb exported from New Zealand for example is routinely killed by this method as the end user is not known at the time of shipment and much of the product finishes up within Muslim societies.

Live exports from the UK have, according to published figures, risen by 300% in the past year with little or no accountability of what happens to the creatures following their shipment. Around 12% are calves destined generally for the veal trade with the bulk of the others being sheep plus some pigs and goats.

It seems likely that, should the campaign mirror Ms Lumley’s past successes, we will hear a lot in the coming months from politicians about local produce and how it is necessary to lessen the distances travelled by livestock. However it is doubtful that anything whatsoever will be done as, once again, the regulations imposed by a previous administration to ensure that qualified vets were permanently employed to ensure high standards, plus other administrative impositions partly due to the foot and mouth epidemic and partly because Governments tend to think that record keeping outweighs animal welfare increased costs beyond the means of small operations.

These costs have led to small local slaughterhouses all but vanishing due to decisions made in no small part because of the pressures brought by previous animal welfare campaigners, ensuring it would be impossible to transfer back to how things were without major investment, unlikely in the current circumstances.

Given Ms Lumley’s previous success expect supermarkets to change labels and make lots of fuss about how wonderful everything is with cover shots of lambs gambolling in British meadows during the whole of their (short) lives but the message for farmers and hauliers is simple, minimise journeys and therefore stress and costs, and treat the animals humanely – and if you didn’t know that already you shouldn’t be in this business in the first place.

Photo: If this was the weigh in before a boxing match who would you back – Mr Woolas recoils before the steady gaze of Ms Lumley.