UK live exports: the Irish connection

Belfast International Airport (also known as Aldergrove) has been used by live animal exporters since November '94 (17 flights, over 6000 calves). The successful actions in England and Wales have brought the issues strongly on to the public agenda in the north of Ireland, though AR groups have as yet been unable to harness the public support into similar demonstrations at the high- security airport. All this may change following the front page "splash" in the popular tabloid Belfast newspaper, the Sunday Life (part of the Belfast Telegraph group).

Below is the front page article with an additional piece covering the Irish farmer who has is responsible for the Swansea airport live export contract. Some of his quotes are quite breath-taking.


Cover story, Sunday Life, 22 Jan 1995

Animal rights activists are planning a round-the-clock blockade of Aldergrove airport in a bid to stop calf exports from Ulster. Anti-live cargo campaigners are to mount 24-hour protests to prevent livestock reaching the runways.

Organisers are threatening to repeat the tactics that brought airports and harbours on the mainland to a standstill. The dramatic change of policy came after it emerged that at least two flights of calves have left Aldergrove since Christmas.

Officials at the Department of Agriculture disclosed that the live shipments flew out of Aldergrove on January 6 and last Wednesday [18 Jan]. A third was scheduled for Friday evening, but it could not be officially confirmed last night that it took off.

Meanwhile, it emerged that besieged English and Welsh farmers are eyeing Aldergrove as an alternative route to the continent. An application has been granted for calves to be shipped to Dun Laoghaire [near Dublin] from Holyhead [Wales], from where they can be taken to Ulster.

Members of the Northern Ireland Groups Against Live Exports had been planning "spot demos" when flights were due to leave. But they were thwarted by a cloak of secrecy thrown around arrangements for the flights. NIGALE leaders are now seeking a showdown meeting with airport bosses.

Campaigner Jacqueline Walsh said: "We will be asking the airport what they intend to do about the live export trade. And if they don't come up with a satisfactory answer, then we have plans in place to start a blockade. We had people on standby to go to the airport when we heard that t flight was about to leave, but that has failed because we just couldn't find out when they were going. We do not want to disrupt the day to day running of the airport, but we may be left with no other option."

No one was available at Aldergrove last night for comment, but bosses are certain to be concerned at the blockade threat. In Shoreham, West Sussex, demonstrators spent three weeks protesting against the export of calves and sheep to Dieppe. The protest cost police 2 million pounds and persuaded Shoreham Port Authority to end its contract with shippers International Traders Ferries.


Crossgar [County Down] farmer Sam Smyth last night defended the controversial export of calves from Ulster to continental veal crate farms. Speaking exclusively to Sunday Life, he described the system as "100 percent humane". And he hit out at the animal rights lobby, accusing them of causing the calves "much more hardship and torture".

"It is the protestors who are being inhumane by disrupting flights and so lengthening the journey times being faced by the calves", he said. "We had 100 calves due to be flown from Swansea last Friday that had to be shot for dog meat because protestors blockaded the airport."

Mr Smyth said he sent calves all over Europe - including France and Holland - on a chartered Ukrainian aircraft. He confirmed that the plane had been used to fly out Welsh and English calves, but "not for some months".

But he pledged to do "everything" he could to help out his English and Welsh counterparts who are facing protestors' blockades. "We put an application into the Dublin authorities to bring in calves via Dun Laoghaire and it was cleared, but it has not been used. But that is an option and we will be keeping it open in the future."

Mr Smyth accused the animal rights lobby of being "hostile to farmers" and said their arguments were "a sham". "If you were a calf, would you like to be shot the day you were born or would you rather live six months and produce 120 kilos of meat to feed someone?" he asked. "At least then you would have done some good in this world. If we stop exporting the animals, they will flood the market and break the farmers. And what would we do with them? Shoot them? That's some compassion."

Mr Smyth also revealed that his family has been the target for a frightening hate campaign since his involvement in the trade became public. "We have had death threats and malicious calls, but it won't stop us." he said. "After all we are only carrying out a legitimate trade, making a living for ourselves."