The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian network founded in 1973


Ex-worker speaks out on veal farm

From the West Sussex County Times
Friday November 23, 1984

A former employee of Gerston Farm, owned by the Norbertine Canons, at Storrington, spoke out this week about the conditions in which veal calves are reared following a threatening phone call made to his home on Saturday.
Ian Floate, a 29-year-old lorry driver, lives at Cootham about a mile away from Gerston Farm with his wife, Nicky, and their two children. On Tuesday he spoke for the first time publicly of his long association with the farm.
"I started working at Gerston when I was about eight-years-old at weekends for pocket money," explained Mr. Floate. "In those days I helped with the dairy herd. I went to work there full-time when I left school at 15. I was a general farm worker, milking cows and driving the tractor."
He explained that the veal farm had been started about six years ago. Initially, he said, the calves were kept in pens on straw.
"There were three or four in a pen. The calves were happy," he claimed.
"About four years ago they sold all the dairy cows and started putting up all these big veal sheds."
Mr. Floate said that the calves were now kept in pens which are two feet six inches plus in width, each with wooden slats 18 inches off the ground. He said they are kept on the bare wood without straw and chained around the neck.
"Each pen is partitioned off with wood so they cannot lick the neck of the calf next door," he said.
Mr. Floate reckoned that about 800 calves were kept on the farm. 
"I used to unload them from the lorries and pen and feed them. I did it for a year and left. I worked for myself for a year. They asked me back and like a fool I went back because I didn't have any work."
Mr. Floate worked at Gerston for another year and left permanently, 13 months ago, after a disagreement with the farm manager. He explained that, during his second term at the farm, he had been responsible for driving the calves to Plymouth once a week.
"The calves are kept between five and six weeks. They come from markets all over the country. The poor little devils get shipped from one end of the country to the other."
He said when they arrived at Gerston they were possibly three days to a week old. Mr. Floate said that he used to drive between 100 and 120 calves to Plymouth at a time.
"We always had plenty of straw on the lorry so we'd load them up the day before in the evening, at about five o'clock, after they were fed, and take them down in the early hours of the morning."
He explained that it was about a seven or eight hour drive. He said that at Plymouth they were supposed to be fed by Government staff who were especially employed to look after animals which were in transit. But he claimed they were neglected.
Mr. Floate claimed that on one particular journey to Plymouth the lorry had caught fire. The wiring had burnt out and he could not continue his journey without lights. Unable to get assistance he was stranded on the side of the road for hours.
"The calves were loaded on at 2 p.m. and didn't get to Plymouth until 11 a.m. They had no food or water," he explained.
He said he was also concerned about injuries he claimed the calves receive because they are kept on wood.
"Because the slats get wet they fall down and their ligaments get damaged and they swell up. They hobble round on three legs. They should be put down, in my opinion, when this happens. Some calves can't stand at all."
Mr. Floate said he had not spoken about his job at the farm before because he wanted "to keep out of it". But on Saturday, he had received a 'phone call in which he was accused of letting calves out of their sheds.
"I was told 'Don't try again or else!', " he claimed.
He said he had heard at the pub that the calves had been let out, one night last week, and that the Animal Rights groups had denied all knowledge of it.
"What satisfaction would I get out of letting those animals out at night? They can't see at night. They would run into barbed wire and cut themselves to pieces," he said.
Mr. Floate said he loved animals and would like to see the veal farm closed.
In March, Luigi Ruggiero, manager of Gerston Farm, was cleared of animal cruelty charges brought by the director of Compassion In World Farming, Peter Roberts. It was the first time that the factory farm crate method of rearing calves, which are fed entirely on milk replacement before being shipped to the Continent, had been tested in court. An appeal is pending.

Reproduced with thanks.

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