Meat & Livestock News

Great Britain Bans Live Animal Exports

TL;DR: Great Britain bans live animal exports for slaughter or fattening, becoming the first in Europe. The law enabled post-Brexit, aims to prevent animal stress and injury. This move aligns with global trends and has strong public support, ensuring high animal welfare standards.

New Legislation

Great Britain has become the first European region to ban exports of live animals for slaughter or fattening. This landmark ban became law on May 20 when the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Act received Royal Assent. The move was made possible by Brexit, which allowed the UK to leave the European Union and implement its regulations.

Scope of the Ban

The new legislation bans the export of live cattle, sheep, and pigs for slaughter and fattening from England, Scotland, and Wales. The UK government stated that this step positions the region as a leader in animal welfare by preventing animals from suffering stress, exhaustion, and injury during long and unnecessary export journeys.

Domestic Slaughter

The act ensures that animals will be slaughtered domestically in high welfare UK slaughterhouses. This not only boosts the profile of British meat but also eliminates the long-standing trade of sheep and lambs for slaughter and fattening, as well as calves sent to continental Europe veal farms. The ban also applies to goats, pigs, wild boar, and horses.

Government’s Stand

UK Environment Secretary Steve Barclay expressed pride in the country’s high animal welfare standards. He emphasised that the new act utilises post-Brexit freedoms to deliver a key manifesto commitment and further strengthen these standards by stopping the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, which causes unnecessary stress and injury.

A Global Trend

Banning live animal exports is a controversial topic but is gaining traction globally. New Zealand and Australia have already banned or are in the process of banning live animal exports. This move by Great Britain sets a precedent and sends a strong message worldwide.

Reactions from Animal Welfare Organisations

Chris Sherwood, RSPCA chief executive, expressed joy at the ban, highlighting that it ends more than 50 years of campaigning. British animals will no longer endure gruelling journeys abroad for further fattening and slaughter in cramped conditions with little or no access to food or water.

Global Impact

Philip Lymbery, Global CEO at Compassion in World Farming, praised the British government for fulfilling this crucial promise. He noted that the long-awaited law ensures Britain will not return to exporting millions of sheep and calves annually to Europe or beyond for slaughter or fattening. This milestone, achieved after over 50 years of campaigning, is significant for animal welfare and will be celebrated for decades.

Exceptions and Future Steps

Live exports for breeding and competition will still be allowed if animals are transported according to legal requirements that protect their welfare. This legislation follows a consultation where 87% of respondents agreed that livestock should not be exported for slaughter and fattening. The UK government’s decision reflects a broad consensus on enhancing animal welfare and sets a high standard for other countries to follow.