Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill
The RSPCA wants to see an end to the practice of exporting live animals for slaughter or further fattening.
The RSPCA very much welcomes the Bill as we have been campaigning on this issue for many decades.
There are many negative animal welfare impacts of live animal exports including; the risks associated with long journeys, insufficient enforcement of existing rules once the animals leave the UK and the possibility that animals can be exported to countries where animal welfare standards are lower than the UK.
The RSPCA believes that animals should be slaughtered as close as possible to the place where they are reared and there should then be a carcass-only export trade.
Animal Welfare Concerns
Animal welfare can be compromised during long distance live transport. Animals can experience a range of problems, including physical injury, hot or cold stress, hunger, dehydration and exhaustion, as a result of being transported for long periods in sub-optimal conditions; for example, at inappropriate stocking densities, with inadequate ventilation/temperature control systems and with unsuitable feeding/watering facilities. Live exports involve a complex journey and can be associated with very long transport times, which is problematic as evidence indicates animal welfare gets worse as journey times increase. Some of the journey times for Scottish calves exported to Spain were over 96 hours.
There is also ongoing concern that animals are being exported to countries where they face conditions that would be illegal in the UK. We have concerns about animals being re-exported to countries where they may be slaughtered without pre-stunning with UK tagged animals being identified in Lebanon and Libya.
RSPCA’s Position and Recommendations
The RSPCA is very supportive of the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill as we have campaigned to end live exports for decades. Although the lack of Border Control Posts prevents the trade now, these could be established and the trade could recommence without this legislation therefore we very much welcome its introduction.
The Bill itself only refers to exports from Great Britain (i.e. not Northern Ireland). This is because Northern Ireland is under the auspices of the EU’s Single Market, as set out in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). By prohibiting exports from the British Islands, the RSPCA believes that the Bill is carefully worded to ensure that it is compatible with WTO rules and can be defended on public moral grounds and meets the conditions of the TCA and the Northern Ireland Protocol, which does not allow a border on the island of Ireland. It will therefore ensure that any export of live animals from Great Britain will be stopped but will permit trade on the island of Ireland. It successfully covers the majority of UK animals such as calves and sheep that are presently exported live.
Section 1(4) of the Bill makes it an offence for anyone to export livestock animals (which includes cattle - including calves, sheep, pigs, wild boar, goats and equines) from Great Britain for slaughter or further fattening to anywhere outside of the British Islands. It is important to ensure that no animals, especially equines, cross the Irish Sea to the Republic of Ireland for slaughter to enter the meat trade. The only ferry company operating this route doesn't transport live farm animals and any transport route plan approved by GB Governments can clearly show that the government end destination is in Northern Ireland.
The RSPCA notes that the Bill exempts poultry as this would cover all poultry including day old chicks. Whilst there is no major trade in live poultry there is a trade in day old chicks across the channel and we would seek assurances from the Government that any cross border trade from Britain in day old chicks meets strict transport and animal welfare standards.