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Live Exports to be Banned by England and Wales

By Tyler, Global Vegans

In a positive step for animal welfare, the UK government has announced its plans to ban the live exportation of animals for both slaughter and fattening from England and Wales. Although this motion is long overdue, it will make England and Wales the first European countries to implement this change. Progression may be slow - and the banning of live exports doesn’t begin to absolve the UK of its diabolical history of animal agriculture - but we must celebrate the small wins when they arrive.

The eight-week-long proceedings needed to discuss the ban began on 3rd December 2020, and it is hoped that the ban will come into place officially by the end of 2021. Although a ban with immediate effect would be the ideal scenario, it is highly encouraging to see the UK government act quickly to prioritise animal welfare ahead of the Brexit transition. There is still a lot of work to be done, but this is a positive change nonetheless.

By prohibiting the live exportation of animals from England and Wales, the UK government will ban agricultural transporters from shipping animals such as pigs, cows and sheep long distances for slaughter and fattening. These journeys are nothing short of barbaric, with hauliers cramming hundreds of animals into dirty and cramped shipping and lorry containers.

Treated as cargo, not as living beings, animals are forced to stand for hours at a time without food, rest or water. Travelling through hot climates is not only unbearable but often deadly, with many animals dying from heat, thirst and respiratory-related illnesses.

Many animals don’t survive the journey, either because of their conditions or as a result of road collisions and accidents at sea. One particularly harrowing case saw 6000 cows drown after the ship carrying them capsized off the coast of Japan in September of this year.

The Government’s official statement regarding the new legislation was released by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) earlier this month, and claims that the banning of long-distance live exports is part of a continued push to position the UK as “a world leader on animal welfare.” We can only hope that the UK continues to push for animal protection laws to benefit all species affected by the inhumane practices of the animal agriculture and transportation industries.

Banning live exports is something Prime Minister Boris Johnson has publicly expressed his desire to act on since 2017, citing the EU’s strict free movement laws as the reason behind the UK’s failure to do so. However, with the Brexit transition moving closer, Johnson and Environment Secretary George Eustice have unveiled their commitment to reigniting this issue.

Currently, only England and Wales have pledged to prohibit the exportation of live animals for slaughter and fattening. Frustratingly, Scotland has not yet committed to making the change for good, and under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland is still bound to the EU legislation governing the exportation of animals for slaughter.

To avoid falling behind on animal welfare issues, Scotland - which transported more than 5000 unweaned male calves in 2017 alone - must evaluate its stance on live exportation. Scotland has a disturbing history of transporting calves as young as three weeks old to mainland Europe, often to Catalonia, with some journeys taking up to six days in total. This is a cruel fate for babies that are not yet old enough to be separated from their mothers.

Despite EU laws governing the transportation of live animals, hauliers regularly break rules to make their journeys quicker, more efficient and more economical - at the expense of animal welfare. By banning the live exportation of animals from England and Wales for slaughter and fattening, we hope the Government will set a precedent that forces other European countries to follow suit.

The news of the ban has been well-received by animal rights and environmental campaigner groups, with Chris Sherwood of the RSPCA calling it “a landmark achievement for animal welfare.”

While the new ban is an exciting first step, the Government must not stop evaluating its approach to animal welfare and the inhumanity of live exports. Currently, the ban does not include the exportation of poultry or the transportation of animals for breeding purposes.

If Eustice is serious in his claim that the UK is “committed to improving the welfare of animals at all stages of life,” then the Government must propose a more comprehensive ban that truly seeks to liberate live animals from undergoing such tortuous journeys.

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