Great Britain becomes first European region to ban live animal exports

Great Britain has become the first region in Europe to ban the export of live animals intended for slaughter or fattening.

The new ban became law on 20 May when the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Act received royal assent, and only became possible after Brexit when the UK left the EU.

In relation to agriculture, this latest legislation prohibits the export of live cattle, sheep and pigs for slaughter and fattening from England, Scotland and Wales, the three nations of Great Britain.

The UK government said the move reinforces the region as a leader in animal welfare, preventing animals from enduring stress, exhaustion and injuries on long and unnecessary export journeys.

The law will ensure animals are slaughtered locally in high-welfare abattoirs in the UK, also boosting the image of British meat.

The bill will end the long-standing trade in sheep and lambs for slaughter and fattening, and calves to veal farms in mainland Europe. It also applies to goats, pigs, wild boars and horses.

UK Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

“Our new law takes advantage of post-Brexit freedoms to deliver on one of our manifesto commitments and strengthen these standards further by preventing the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, which we know causes unnecessary stress and injury to animals.”

Banning the export of live animals is a highly controversial topic, but is being advocated by many countries around the world. New Zealand and Australia have already banned, or begun the process of banning, live animal exports.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), said: “After more than 50 years of campaigning, we are very pleased to see the export of live animals from Great Britain banned. This means that British animals will no longer be sent on stressful journeys.” To go abroad for further fattening and slaughter in cramped and poor conditions with little or no access to food or water.

“As one of the first countries in the world to abolish this practice, this vital step for animal welfare sends an important message globally and we hope to see other countries follow suit soon.”

Philip Lymbery, global chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, said: “We commend the British Government for delivering on this hugely important promise. This long-awaited law will ensure that Britain never returns to the dark days of exporting up to 2.5 million sheep.” Calves are transported annually to Europe or abroad to be slaughtered or fattened.

Great Britain becomes first European region to ban live animal exports
Great Britain banned the export of live animals intended for slaughter or fattening. Chris McCullough | For livestock news in the tri-state

“Compassion in World Farming and its loyal supporters have been campaigning to ban live exports for over 50 years. To finally see the end of this cruel practice is critical to animal welfare and a day that will be celebrated for decades to come!”

The export of animals will still be permitted in other specified circumstances, for example, for breeding and competition purposes, provided that the animals are transported in line with legal requirements that protect their welfare.

This legislation comes after a consultation on ending live animal exports, where 87% of participants agreed not to export livestock for slaughter and fattening.

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