Animal rights campaigners today began a round the clock blockade of Belfast International Airport in protest at the transportation of calves to the Continent. The blockade started as the Republic [of Ireland] announced it was banning a back door route to stop veal calves coming in by its ports from Britain on the way to Aldergrove.
Irish agriculture officials said 1,500 calves had been transported from Holy head to Dun Laoghaire since November without their knowledge. The calves were flown out to France from the International airport.
As animal rights protesters blockade English and Welsh ports, farmers had begun shipping calves to Dun Laoghaire, driving them into Northern Ireland and flying them out to the continent. "We think it is absolutely fabulous that the Department of Agriculture in the Republic of Ireland has stopped this cruel route to the continent." said Monika Kaye of Bright Eyes Animal Sanctuary.
A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture in Dublin said: "The proposed routing of young calves from Great Britain via the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and onwards to France is a circuitous and artificial route involving the transportation of the animals for several hours in a direction away from their eventual destination. This journey plan is not consistent with the aim of maximising the animals' welfare and may cause unnecessary suffering or distress." he said. According to the spokesman, the Department is in favour of transporting animals by the most direct route between origin and final destination. "It is the Department's policy not to facilitate the transportation of animals by means which increase the risk of the animals' distress." he said.
According to the animal rights protesters at the International Airport, airport officials are refusing to meet them to discuss the blockade. "It's very irresponsible of them. They obviously do not want to avoid inconvenience to the airport users," said Ms Kaye, "they have refused to answer our calls."
The blockade has been in place since 2am this morning. Animal welfare spokeswoman Monika Kaye said: "At the moment we are waiting for reinforcements. We don't know exactly when the calves are coming through, but we will maintain our 24 hour blockade."
The airport officials have refused to meet the protesters. An airport spokeswoman said: "We have no plans to speak to the protesters at this stage. The demonstration is peaceful and is not affecting the normal operation of the airport." she said.
Ms Kaye said: "I find it very hard to understand why they are not responding. It's in their interests. We do not want to cause inconvenience to the general public. People driving past are giving us their support, hooting their horns and giving us the thumbs up. We would like people using the airport to make it clear to the airlines that they are not happy that this is going on at Aldergrove," she said.