Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
New legislation set to ban live animal exports
Export of livestock for slaughter and fattening will be banned under new legislation.
New legislation will put an end to the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain.
The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill – which was yesterday (4 December 2023) introduced in Parliament – delivers on a key manifesto commitment to ban the export of live animals including cattle, sheep, and pigs.
This legislation is only possible now we have left the European Union and will stop animals enduring unnecessary stress, exhaustion and injury on long journeys.
As the highest ranked G7 nation according to World Animal Protection’s Index, the Government is committed to high animal welfare standards and ensuring all animals are treated kindly at all stages of life. We have been clear that animals should only be transported when necessary, and if possible should not travel long distances to be slaughtered.
The Bill will ensure that animals are slaughtered domestically in high welfare UK slaughterhouses, reinforcing our position as a world leader on animal welfare, boosting the value of British meat and helping to grow the economy.
Environment Secretary Steve Barclay yesterday said:
We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.
This Bill makes use of post-Brexit freedoms to strengthen these standards by preventing the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, which we know causes animals unnecessary stress and injury.
The legislation follows a 2020 consultation on ending live animal exports in which 87% of respondents agreed that livestock should not be exported for slaughter and fattening. This Bill also follows a manifesto commitment and Action Plan for Animal Welfare pledge to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening.
Kerry Postlewhite, assistant director of campaigns and prevention at the RSPCA, yesterday said:
After fifty years of campaigning to end live exports, it is so important, and welcome, that the UK Government is acting to ban the live export of animals - outlawing the long, crowded journeys, mental exhaustion, physical injury, dehydration and stress that are a reality for farm animals on these unnecessary journeys.
It is great that the new Defra Secretary of State has shown such strong and enthusiastic support previously for a ban on live exports - and we look forward to this policy becoming a reality.
Philip Lymbery, Compassion in World Farming’s Global CEO, yesterday said:
We greatly welcome the publication of legislation to ban live exports. This is an historic moment which we hope will finally see an end to the unnecessary export trade in cattle and sheep for slaughter or fattening from Great Britain. We urge a speedy passage for this long-awaited measure, to ensure that the export of unweaned calves on journeys often lasting 60 hours or more will finally be banned. And that a line will be drawn under the practice of sending sheep on journeys that can last many days, simply to be slaughtered on arrival.
We have campaigned relentlessly for over 50 years to make this cruel and outdated practice illegal, so we are delighted the Government is taking action to end this trade, finally consigning it to the history books.
Roly Owers, Chief Executive of World Horse Welfare, yesterday said:
We are delighted that the government has introduced this Bill and will put its muscle behind making it law. We know horses are being exported for slaughter ‘under the radar’ despite none being officially declared for this purpose. This Bill will finally make it illegal, something we have been campaigning for since our charity’s foundation almost 100 years ago. We look forward to working with Defra to ensure that the right measures are put in place to enforce this hugely significant piece of legislation.
Live exports in other specific circumstances, for example, for breeding and competitions, will still be allowed provided animals are transported in line with legal requirements aimed at protecting their welfare.
The Bill is just one part of a wider Government effort to enhance our existing world-leading standards. For farm animals, we have introduced new statutory welfare codes for pigs, laying hens and meat chickens, banned the use of conventional battery cages for laying hens and made CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses.
Since publishing the Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021, we have: brought in new laws to recognise animals sentience, introduced tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences, backed a ban on glue traps, introduced legislation on compulsory cat microchipping, and brought the ivory ban into force and announced an extension to cover other ivory bearing species.
The full list of animals covered by the Bill is: cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses.
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