Live Animal Exports | June 2019

I have received numerous emails regarding the export of live animals.
The Government has a manifesto commitment that states that following our departure from the European Union, it will take steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter. Currently, the Government believes animals should be slaughtered as close as practicable to their point of production. However, until our negotiations with the European Union have been concluded, the UK remains a full member of the EU and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. Consequently, during this period the Government will continue to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation.

European Union trade rules have prevented successive Governments from totally banning the live export trade, yet progress has been made in reducing the number of live animal exports. 25 years ago, approximately two million animals were exported each year, with the peak of live exports from the UK for slaughter being in 1992; when a total of around 400,000 cattle, 300,000 pigs and nearly 1.5 million sheep were exported from the UK directly for slaughter. As a result of widespread dismay at the practice, port authorities and shipping companies were put under considerable pressure to end the trade, which led to nearly all the main ferry operators refusing to take animals destined for slaughter.
In 2017, about 21,000 farm animals were exported for fattening and production, and a further 5,000 were transported directly for slaughter from the UK. That was a decrease on the 2016 export figures, when about 50,000 farm animals were exported for fattening and production, and around 5,200 were transported directly for slaughter. However, approximately 14 million sheep were slaughtered in the UK duirng the same period. Consequently, the reality is that the live export for slaughter of sheep, in particular, is a very small part of the overall UK sheep trade.
Despite live animal exports having been dramatically reduced in recent years, it is the Government position that animals should preferably be slaughtered as near as possible to their point of production. The Government is committed to improving the welfare of all animals, and share both British farmers’ and the British public’s high regard for animal welfare. It is commendable that the UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world, and we have continued to be a world leader in raising the bar on welfare standards, with CCTV recently been made mandatory in all slaughterhouses.
As the UK moves to forge a new relationship with the European Union, the Government is in a unique position to shape future animal welfare policy and ensure the highest standards in every area, including the welfare of animals in transport. Subsequently, the Government is committed in to its manifesto pledge to taking early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter following our departure from the EU.

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