The UK’s Environment Secretary George Eustice has unveiled plans to ban, in England and Wales, the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening.
The government has launched an eight-week consultation on these proposals and other potential measures to better protect animal welfare during transport.
As well as the export ban, the consultation will also look at proposals for reduced maximum journey times, giving animals more space and headroom, and tighter rules for transporting animals in extreme temperatures or by sea.
According to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), the announcement marks the start of a renewed push to further strengthen the UK’s standards on animal welfare.
Around 6,400 animals were sent from the UK to continental Europe for slaughter in 2018, according to figures provided by Defra.
Defra says that previously EU rules have prevented any changes to export journeys, and that leaving the Union has enabled the government to pursue plans for a ban.
“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,” said Environment Secretary George Eustice.
“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.”
Welcoming the plans, RSPCA CEO Chris Sherwood said: “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 and Compassion in World Farming’s chief policy advisor, added: “Compassion in World Farming is delighted that Defra plans to ban live exports for slaughter and fattening.
“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.”
The results of the consultation will be discussed with the Scottish government, “with the aim of having similar rules apply across Great Britain on improving the protection for animals in transport”.
The proposals will not affect Northern Ireland, which Defra says will continue to follow EU legislation on animal welfare in transport for as long as the Northern Ireland Protocol is in place.
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