Banning the veal crate

1984 - 1986

Created by Joyce D'Silva on 11/29/2010
In 1984 Peter took a court case against a farm in Sussex, run by the Norbertine Canons near Storrington. They kept calves in the notorious veal crate, where the animals spent their entire lives never able to turn round or take more than a step or two forwards or back.These particular calves were chained by the neck as well. They were also fed a liquid only diet to keep their flesh appealingly pale - the so-called "white veal". Animal welfare law was not sufficiently advanced at that time for the judgement to go in Peter's favour, so he appealed the decision and lost again. However the case created huge national publicity and outrage, especially among many Roman Catholics, who lobbied the Pope and the Cardinal. I was only a Compassion supporter at the time, but was thrilled to see Peter on national TV News and the story on the front page of the national papers. In Sept 1985 I joined Compassion as a Campaigns Officer. We continued to lobby the Ministry of Agriculture (pre-DEFRA days) and to run a public campaign, which got huge support. In 1986 The Ministry phoned us to invite Peter to attend a conference on farm animal welfare at the National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh. My colleague Carol Mc Kenna and I had already signed up for this conference but the Ministry official was adamant and phoned back once or twice more to insist that Peter should attend. In the end he gave in and all three of us went to the conference. The then Minister Donald Thompson MP opened the conference and surprised us all by announcing that the government was going to ban veal crates and would give a 3-year phase-out, beginning in 1987. The penny dropped - that was why they had been so insistent that Peter should attend in person and hear the announcement! Of course the Minister could not pay public tribute to Peter as he had openly challenged the status quo in the courts, but it was a kind of private acknowledgement of the key role Peter had played in achieving the ban. On the way home, we stopped the car and had a glass of champagne! Even better, in the end the whole of the European Union followed Britain's lead and veal crates were banned throughout the EU from Jan 1st 2007. Peter always had this strong vision of how farming should be carried out, with total respect for each animal as a sentient being. He allied this vision with huge commitment, sound strategy and total dedication. I was honoured to work for him and learn from him - and to still be working for the great organisation he founded!