Government plans ban on controversial live animal exports

Defra says new welfare regime possible because of Brexit

Harry Cockburn
Thursday 03 December 2020 07:43
Around 6,400 live animals were exported direct to slaughter from the UK in 2018
Around 6,400 live animals were exported direct to slaughter from the UK in 2018

The government has said it is planning to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, as it seeks to “strengthen the UK’s position as a world leader on animal welfare”.

The proposals are part of an eight-week consultation across England and Wales that aims to improve animal welfare during transport.

Animals being exported around the world are commonly forced to endure excessively long journeys, causing distress, injury and death.

Around 6,400 animals were transported from the UK directly to slaughter in continental Europe in 2018, according to government figures.

The UK government has said they are only now able to change the rules regarding live animal transport as the UK leaves the EU.

In a statement, Defra said: “Previously, EU rules prevented any changes to these journeys, but leaving the EU has enabled the UK government to pursue these plans, which would prevent unnecessary suffering of animals during transport and see us become the first country in Europe to end this practice.”

The government is also consulting on proposals to further improve animal welfare in transport more generally, and will examine areas including: reducing maximum journey times, space given to animals during transportation, stricter rules on transporting animals in extreme temperatures and tighter rules for transporting live animals by sea.

Environment secretary George Eustice said: “We are committed to improving the welfare of animals at all stages of life. Today marks a major step forward in delivering on our manifesto commitment to end live exports for slaughter.

“Now that we have left the EU, we have an opportunity to end this unnecessary practice. We want to ensure that animals are spared stress prior to slaughter.”

Chris Sherwood, the chief executive of the RSPCA said ending live exports would be a “landmark achievement”.

He said: “We welcome plans to end live exports and look forward to seeing this happen as the RSPCA has campaigned on this issue for more than 50 years.

“There is absolutely no reasonable justification to subject an animal to an unnecessarily stressful journey abroad simply for them to be fattened for slaughter.

“Ending live exports for slaughter and further fattening would be a landmark achievement for animal welfare.”

Peter Stevenson OBE, Compassion in World Farming’s chief policy advisor, also welcomed the proposals.

He said: “Compassion in World Farming is delighted that Defra plans to ban live exports for slaughter and fattening. We have campaigned for over 50 years against the massive suffering caused by this inhumane, archaic trade, so this unambiguous proposal is very welcome.

“We urge farmers not to oppose the proposed ban but rather to recognise that this is an important part of moving forward to a high welfare future."

In the statement, Defra added: “This announcement marks the start of renewed efforts from government to raise standards on animal welfare even further now we are outside the EU, including taking steps to ban primates as pets and crack down on the illegal smuggling of dogs and puppies, with further proposals to improve standards and eradicate cruel practices expected to be set out in the coming months.”

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