UK bans exports of live animals

Posted: 24 May 2024 | | No comments yet

The UK has become one of the first countries in the world to place a ban on exporting live animals through the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Act.

UK bans exports on live animals

A new ban on exporting live animals has come into law in the UK, as the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Act received Royal Assent, capitalising on post-Brexit freedoms and bolstering the UK’s position as a world leader in animal welfare standards.

The legislation delivers on a key manifesto commitment to ban the export of live animals – including cattle, sheep and pigs – for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain. It will stop animals enduring stress, exhaustion and injury on long and unnecessary export journeys.

The Act will ensure that animals are slaughtered domestically in high welfare UK slaughterhouses, reinforcing the nation’s position as one of animal lovers and a world leader on animal welfare, boosting the value of British meat and helping to grow the economy.

Steve Barclay, the UK’s Environment Secretary, said: “We are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

“Our new Act makes use of post-Brexit freedoms to deliver one of our manifesto commitments and strengthen these standards even further by preventing the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, which we know causes animals unnecessary stress and injury.”

Chris Sherwood, Chief Executive of the RSPCA, said: “After more than 50 years of campaigning, we are absolutely thrilled to see that the live export of animals has been banned from Great Britain. This means that British animals will no longer be sent on gruelling journeys abroad for further fattening and slaughter in cramped and poor conditions with little or no access to food or water.

“As one of the first countries in the world to abolish this practice, this vital step for animal welfare sends an important message globally, and we hope to see other countries follow suit soon.

“As we mark our 200th anniversary as a charity and look to the future of animal welfare, it’s great to see that this outdated practice is finally consigned to the past. This ban marks a huge step forward for animal welfare and further shows that we are a nation of animal lovers – who care for every kind. We’d like to say thank you to all our supporters, all those who have campaigned on this issue and to the UK Government for making this milestone moment for animals happen.”

As the highest ranked G7 nation according to the World Animal Protection’s Index, the government is committed to high animal welfare standards and ensuring that all animals are treated well at all stages of life. It has been clear that animals should only be transported when necessary and, if possible, should not travel long distances to be slaughtered.

Live exports in other specific circumstances, for example, for breeding and competitions, will still be allowed, provided that animals are transported in line with legal requirements which protect their welfare. The legislation follows a consultation on ending live animal exports, in which 87% of respondents agreed that livestock should not be exported for slaughter and fattening.

This Bill also follows a manifesto commitment and Action Plan for Animal Welfare pledge to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening. Enabling regulations will be made as soon as possible to bring the ban into force.

The Act is just one part of a wider government effort to enhance the UK’s existing world-leading standards. For farm animals, the government has introduced new statutory welfare codes for pigs, laying hens and meat chickens, banned the use of conventional battery cages for laying hens and made CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses. 

Since publishing the Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021, the UK Government has brought in new laws to recognise animal sentience; introduced tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences; announced an extension of the ivory ban to cover other ivory bearing species; supported legislation to ban glue traps and the import of detached shark fins; and introduced measures to ban the advertising and offering for sale of low welfare activities abroad.

The government has also achieved its commitment to deliver the Kept Animals Bill measures individually, with all of the measures that require legislation back before Parliament and the pets as primate restrictions already law.

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