The UK Must Use Brexit to End Live Animal Exports

As the UK hammers out an exit deal from the European Union, it has the opportunity to end the needlessly cruel practice of live animal exports.

Live animal exports — fully conscious  animals transported across borders for slaughter – are subject to what should be strict laws in the EU. For example, unless the country of origin can guarantee that animals will be transported to a destination that adheres to EU welfare standards, that export — in theory, at least – may not proceed.

However, as undercover reports — like the Animals International investigation released earlier this year — showed, once animals reach certain locations, like Turkey or other nations within the Middle East, they’re often subjected to horrific abuses. This mistreatment can range from slaughter in appalling conditions to hoisting fully conscious animals by a single limb.

The dilemma stems from a lack of oversight at destination countries, in addition to the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act (1847) which means “goods” — in this case, animals — cannot be blocked from trade by the port authority, even if that authority believes that EU regulations are being violated.

This mismatch between standards and enforcement has created uncertainty, and animals have been shipped out, despite serious concerns for their well-being.

To be clear, though, animal welfare advocates don’t just want to end the practice because of uncertain welfare conditions in destination countries.

The Reality of Live Export Conditions

In 2012, Compassion in World Farming followed the export of calves from a UK port to Spain. The journey lasted 60 hours, and the video footage was shocking.

Live exports of young cows from the UK are less common these days, but the industry still ships sheep and pigs. And these animals are subject to the same cramped conditions in hot trailers, characterized by malfunctioning water tanks and minimal ventilation.

Campaigners have pointed out that while these abuses, on the whole, are not allowed on British soil, they’re considered a necessary evil for trade.

Animal welfare activists have long called for an end to live exports across borders and urged lawmakers to impose a maximum journey time of, at most, eight hours. They maintain that this legislation would still allow for domestic trade across the country, while maintaining high animal welfare standards.

This policy change would also boost the UK’s commitment to a greener future. Live export ships produce massive amounts of animal waste, which is ultimately pumped into our oceans.

And meandering routes often emit additional greenhouse gases. Compassion in World Farming notes:

In one incident, investigators witnessed a truck of bulls which set off from Latvia being delayed at the Turkish border for 6 days. The truck had already travelled for 2600km over 5 days. When they were eventually cleared to enter Turkey, they still had another 2000km to go….to Iraq!

It’s Time to Ditch Live Exports

When it comes to Brexit, progressives raise a number of valid concerns. However, the UK government appears ready to take a lead for the better on animal welfare — and specifically, the issue of exports.

In a recent speech, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove stated:

Leaving the European Union gives us the chance to secure a special prize – a Green Brexit. Now, of course, there have been environmental rules which we helped develop while in the EU which are important and which we must keep – indeed – where possible – strengthen. …we can improve animal welfare, supporting more humane methods of farming and restricting the live export of animals.

But campaigners want to go one step further and ban live exports in favor of a “carcass only trade.”  A petition on the UK government’s website urges for such a ban. Exceeding 30,000 signatures, it has prompted a response from the government.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said in part:

The Government believes animals should be slaughtered as close as practicable to their point of production. A trade in meat and meat products is preferable to the long distance transport of animals to slaughter. Once we leave the European Union, and in line with our manifesto commitment, we can take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter. We will be considering the options further in the context of our departure from the EU.

At 100,000 signatures, a petition on the official UK government website triggers parliamentary debate, where ministers must hear the full breadth of concerns regarding live exports and arguments for ending this practice.

To prevent untold animal suffering, UK residents must call for a ban on all live exports.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

57 comments

Melania P
Melania P28 days ago

Transporting animals alive should be banned, we know animals feel, this is not the 18th century! I hope they do: I've signed so many petitions... Thanks for posting

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a month ago

thank you

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Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a month ago

thank you

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a month ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome Sabout a month ago

thanks

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Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a month ago

end the cruelty.

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Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a month ago

end the cruelty.

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Jessica C
Jessica C1 months ago

End animal cruelty!! Why keep it going? What possible good reason is there?

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christine s
christine s2 months ago

End animal cruelty full stop.

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Olivia H
Olivia H3 months ago

Thank you

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