Live animals commonly endure excessively long journeys during exports, causing distress and injury. Previously, EU rules prevented any changes to these journeys, but leaving the EU has enabled the Government to pursue plans which would prevent unnecessary suffering of animals during transport and see the UK become the first country in Europe to end this practice. Following a public consultation on the manifesto commitment to end excessively long journeys for animals for slaughter and fattening, I am pleased that the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill has now been introduced to Parliament. This Bill will allow the UK to become the first European country to end this practice.
I understand that under the Bill export journeys for slaughter and fattening that use England or Wales as a land bridge would not be permitted. I am assured that the legislation will not impact on domestic slaughter and fattening movements, and that the export of poultry, as well as animals being exported for breeding purposes, will continue to take place providing animal welfare is suitably protected.
As part of the consultation process, Ministers also looked at proposals to generally improve animal welfare in transport, such as new maximum journey times, new requirements for thermal conditions and ventilation, space and headroom allowances and tighter rules for transporting live animals by sea. I understand a wide range of views in response to the consultation were received, and ministers will continue to work with industry, NGOs and others to identify priorities where the evidence is clear and in other cases to explore some of the issues and evidence together in more detail. I know that the Secretary of State is keen to work with industry and welfare organisations to develop practical solutions that generate the good welfare outcomes we all want to see. Once agreed, a package of reforms through secondary legislation or guidance will be implemented, as appropriate.
I know there is longstanding concern over the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening and many have campaigned for decades against this practice. I truly believe ending live exports for slaughter and fattening will signal this country’s intention of continuing to be a world leader in animal welfare by maintaining and strengthening our already high animal welfare standards.