Ministers rule out ban on live animal exports

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MINISTERS have for the first time ruled out banning the export of live animals to Europe after being advised that it would be in breach of European Union law.

The decision will dismay animal rights campaigners who have been fighting for an end to the practice. Nicholas Soames, the minister for food, said the Government was 'acutely aware' of the great strength of feeling.

The legal department at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had considered calls for a ban under article 36 of the Treaty of Rome, he said. The treaty allows a restriction on trade on the grounds of public morality or protection of health of humans, animals and plants. But the advisers had concluded that article 36 'is not available as a basis of action in an area where the Community has established EC legislation.'

Mr Soames told Sir Teddy Taylor, an anti-Maastricht Tory MP, 'it is not for individual member states to constrain intra-community trade in order to impose higher standards on their own territory'.

Sir Teddy told the Independent: 'What this means is that there is absolutely nothing which the Government and Parliament can do to stop the traffic and that the great national campaigns by the animal charities are pointless.'

Sir Teddy described it as a 'massive disappointment which will cause concern to many people in the UK who are concerned about the suffering of animals'.