SCOTLAND’S chief vet has insisted “high welfare standards” are in place when animals are transported overseas and branded a debate sparked by a TV programme about the practice “alarmist”.

Sheila Voas spoke out after ferry company P&O announced it was halting the transportation of live calves from Scotland after the screening of a BBC documentary.

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Voas said she wanted to “reassure” the public.

The Scottish Government is currently undertaking a year’s worth of research to determine the effects on the calves of these journeys.

Writing in The Times, Voas said much of the commentary around the practice “could be politely referred to as alarmist”.

She said: “I want to reassure the public that Scotland has a responsible dairy industry that cares about the welfare of these animals and is subject to the highest standards of welfare as regulated by European law. There are a small numbers of calves being transported to Spain for fattening and production. Some reports have distorted the reality of these journeys.”

Voas said that while “typically” the journey takes about 100 hours, calves spend “more than half of this time resting or being fed, unloaded off their transport, at control posts”.