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
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."
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."
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
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
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 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.
Return to Articles