The Government has announced plans to ban the export of live animals for slaughter, as part of a push to improve general animal welfare in transport.
An eight-week public consultation on the proposals opens today (3 December) in England and Wales.
Environment secretary George Eustice said the UK has a “historic opportunity” to boost its high welfare standards owing to its exit from the EU.
A Defra spokesman said: “Live animals commonly have to 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 UK Government to pursue these plans, which would prevent unnecessary suffering of animals during transport and mean we become the first country in Europe to end this practice.”
Also covered in the consultation are proposals to boost welfare in transport, such as reducing maximum journey times and giving animals more space, and introducing stricter rules on transport of animals by sea, and in extreme temperatures.
Mr Eustice said: “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.
“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.”
The consultation takes into account responses to the 2018 Call for Evidence and a report published by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (now the Animal Welfare Committee), which is made up of farming and veterinary experts.
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “We welcome plans to end live exports and look forward to seeing this happen as the RSPCA has campaigned on this issue for more than 50 years.
Read the last of three blogs about H&H's journey across Europe with World Horse Welfare
A Defra webinar on 4 November explained in detail the steps anyone taking horses from Britain to EU member states
“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.”
Some 6,400 animals were transported from the UK directly to slaughter in continental Europe in 2018.
The Defra spokesman said: “This announcement marks the start of renewed efforts from government to raise standards on animal welfare even further now we are outside the EU.”
What do you think of these proposals? Email hhletters@for your chance to be featured on our letters page. The letter of the week wins a bottle of Champagne Taittinger.
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade to access our H&H Plus online service which brings you breaking news as it happens as well as other benefits.