Live farm animals are often transported in horrendous conditions for long journeys across the continent where animals may suffer from overcrowding, exhaustion, extreme temperatures and a lack of food and water. The animals arrive at overseas slaughterhouses that often have lower welfare standards than those in the UK.
All live animal exports from Britain and Europe are currently controlled by an EU regulation. However, the UK’s decision to leave the EU provides an opportunity for this issue to be addressed.
In April, the government launched a call for evidence on controlling live exports for slaughter and improving animal welfare during transport after Brexit. The government has suggested that it may consult further on proposed measures which could include regulatory measures as well as prohibitions.
The initial call for evidence sought views from industry, devolved administrations, charities and the public and considered all options for raising welfare standards, including a potential ban. The call for evidence closed on May 22. The government says it will consider the responses and will respond in due course.
In my view, a consultation does not go far enough. The Opposition is currently consulting on a new Animal Welfare Plan and one of the proposals being considered is a ban on live exports for slaughter and fattening, with an exemption for breeding animals as long as they are transported under genuinely high welfare standards. It also proposes an exemption for livestock transported across the Northern Ireland border.
While we must await the government’s response to the consultation, I can assure you that I will continue to press for legislation to restrict the export of live animals.
More widely, I will also press at every possible opportunity for our existing environmental and animal welfare standards to be retained and strengthened.