Parliament debate a ban on live animal exports from the UK


Parliament debated a ban on live animal exports from the UK following pressure from an online petition calling for the Government to ‘End the export of live farm animals after Brexit’.

Read the whole debate here:

Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation MP Patrons Sir Roger Gale, Sir David Amess, Theresa Villiers and Zac Goldsmith all contributed to the debate, putting the case forwards for a ban on live exports for slaughter and fattening.On the morning of the debate, The Times released a story revealing the lengthy journeys – lasting up to 135 hours – more than 5,000 young calves had to endure in 2017, whilst being transported from Scotland to Spain and Italy

 Steve Double led the debate and said:

“Last year, the Conservative party manifesto made the commitment to take early steps, as we leave the European Union, to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter. I absolutely support that position, and we should seek to take those steps soon after leaving the European Union.”

Zac Goldsmith MP  talked on the conditions of exported calves once they arrive in Spain:

” I believe that in the past two years 20,000 calves have been sent to Spain. In Spain there is a requirement that a calf should be given bedding for only the first two weeks of its life and not beyond that, whereas a British calf has the right—if I can put it that way—to have bedding for six months. So the standards in Spain are dramatically lower than those in the UK, which is another reason why this issue is about not only whether an animal is going to be slaughtered, but the conditions in which it is living when it reaches its destination.”

Sir David Amess  talked on why he sought an end to live exports for slaughter:

“I congratulate my hon. Friend Steve Double on his introduction to the debate. Kerry McCarthy has a wonderful record in animal welfare measures, but I have to say immediately that I am absolutely delighted we are leaving the European Union, as are my constituents, and one of the biggest beneficiaries will be the animal kingdom. My hon. Friend Sir Roger Gale and I, for 35 years, have consistently championed animal welfare measures in this place. For a while, it seemed that we were rather few in numbers on our side of the House, which could have been because many Conservative Members represented farming communities. When I was Member of Parliament for Basildon I had 28 farms in my constituency; now I am the Member for Southend West I have no farms, so there are no farmers lobbying me. I understand that if a Member from any party has a farming community in their constituency this is possibly not an easy issue to consider, but as far as I am concerned, we can judge life generally on the way in which we treat animals. Mrs Lorraine Platt and others, through the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, have absolutely transformed the way in which colleagues—certainly Conservative Members—see these matters.

From 1997 to 2010, a number of animal welfare organisations supported the Labour party with their money, but as far as I am concerned the only good thing that Tony Blair did was ban foxhunting. On all other animal welfare measures, he let the British people down badly. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for the marvellous reception he gave in the Jubilee Room a short while ago celebrating pasties, and I am delighted that we have a Minister who is doing a splendid job on animal welfare. His boss, the Secretary of State—he was an outstanding Secretary of State for Education, too—is saying everything that I and my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet have wanted to hear for so many years. I hope that more and more colleagues who are joining the campaign will support the Minister and the Secretary of State in their mission.

As the hon. Member for Bristol East said, in 2012 we took part in a debate on animal welfare exports. At the time, live animal export numbers were dwindling, and I held out hope that a future debate on the subject would not be necessary. It is obvious that the industry has grown again since then. I associate myself with the views of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I know the RSPCA has had a number of internal difficulties, but as long as Lady Stockton remains one of the trustees, I have great faith in that organisation, and I hope it will continue to promote sensible animal welfare measures.

The RSPCA is concerned that, as the hon. Member for Bristol East mentioned, millions of farm animals transported around Europe for fattening and slaughter are suffering from stress, exhaustion, thirst and rough handling. I cannot believe that these animals enjoy the way they are transported.”

Sir Roger Gale MP talked on the unacceptable length of journeys for animals exported for slaughter:

“I think my hon. Friend has missed the entire point of the debate. The point is not that animals should be transported under good conditions, but whether they should be slaughtered, as my hon. Friend Steve Double said in opening the debate, as close to the point of production as possible and exported on the hook and not on the hoof. In that context, it is immaterial how they travel within the United Kingdom. There are 135 hours between the Scottish islands and Spain, and that is unacceptable under any circumstances. It is the principle that we object to, not the quality of the export.”

Theresa Villiers MP  spoke on her Bill and that it is time to end live exports:

“The export of live farm animals can cause great suffering in many cases, as was outlined by a number of right hon. and hon. Members, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) and for Southend West (Sir David Amess), and Kerry McCarthy. Last year I proposed a ten-minute rule Bill to implement a ban on the export of live animals for slaughter or for fattening, because I believe it to be unethical to export animals to countries where they can be subjected to treatment that would be unlawful in the United Kingdom.

I am concerned, as are many others who have spoken this afternoon, that the rules regulating the transport and slaughter of animals that are supposed to apply across every EU member state are not always effectively enforced in every part of the European Union once animals leave this country. Many of the sheep exported from the UK are sent to France, but there is clear evidence of inhumane and illegal slaughter practices in a number of places there—a problem acknowledged in a 2016 report by a committee of inquiry in the French Parliament. In my view, that of the people who signed the petition, and that of many of my constituents, it is not acceptable for the UK to send animals to die in such horrendous conditions.

We have had extensive discussion about calves that are exported from Scotland to Spain, and are subjected to a 20-hour sea journey to northern France, and then a drive all the way to Spain. The total journey time can be as much as 135 hours. Morbidity and mortality following transport can be high, and those that survive to reach their destination in Spain can, under the law prevailing there, be kept in barren pens, without bedding, which would be illegal in this country.

Over the years, there have been repeated calls for this harsh trade to be brought to an end. Public concern on the issue dates back nearly 100 years. The 1990s saw mass protests by thousands of dedicated campaigners seeking an end to live exports, but attempts to implement a ban have been blocked by the European Court of Justice as being in contravention of EU law and single market rules on the free movement of goods.

Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union, we have the opportunity to reopen the question and to decide in this House whether to implement a ban. Although export bans are constrained by World Trade Organisation rules, the WTO appellate body has ruled that animal welfare matters are capable of falling within the “public morals” exception. There are reasonable grounds to believe that the UK would be able to defend a WTO challenge by showing an export ban to be a proportionate response to long-standing, deeply held concerns of the public in the United Kingdom, as illustrated by those many thousands of people who took the time to sign the petition we are debating.

The WTO is not the only potential barrier to delivering an end to live exports, as called for by those who signed the petition. We will only be able to end them if we leave the single market; if we do not, a ban will continue to be beyond this country’s reach, as it has been for so many years. That is another important reason to respect the result of the referendum and leave the single market, replacing it with a new partnership with our European neighbours.

I understand from my discussions with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, for which I am very grateful, that the Government intend to consult soon on how implement the Conservative manifesto promise that we will “take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter”.

I appeal to the Minister to publish that consultation, and to ensure that the options considered include a ban on export for slaughter or for fattening. Like the hon. Member for Bristol East and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West, I think that if we are to tackle the welfare concerns highlighted by hon. Members, the ban needs to include exports for fattening as well.

I believe, as others do, that there is a case for allowing exports to continue from north to south, from Northern Ireland. That is essentially local traffic, and I do not think that it raises the same animal welfare concerns. As I said to my hon. Friend Bill Wiggin, if we genuinely want an end to live exports, we are justified in stating that the exemption for north-south exports should not allow onward transportation to destinations outside the Republic of Ireland.”

Craig Mackinlay MP stressed the long journeys that live animals have to endure from as far away as Cumbria for 8-10 hours before they even arrive at the port of Ramsgate for export:

“I would hazard a guess that, unusually, this afternoon’s petition is probably supported by the vast majority of UK citizens. I noted that one of the areas with the greatest density of replies, as we can see from the information published by the House, was South Thanet, and for good reason. Part of South Thanet has been mentioned in the debate: the very small commercial port of Ramsgate, which is part of my constituency. It has the very dubious honour, which I want to get rid of as soon as possible, of being the only UK port through which lamb and sheep are transported across an international sea border for slaughter abroad.

If the inappropriate means of transport across the channel—up to three hours on a small, ageing Russian tank transporter called the Joline, which plied the Volga river in a previous incarnation and is now Latvian-flagged—is not bad enough, we should also be concerned about the long journey times within the UK. The sheep and lambs are often from Cumbria, meaning an eight to 10 hour trip to Kent. The onward journey, after three hours travelling across the channel, could be to somewhere as far as Germany, which would take another eight hours or more, after which they are slaughtered. We are talking about a transport time—without mentioning the problems that we have already heard about regarding veal—for lambs of 24 hours in total. Although exports through Ramsgate can be at any time of year—in winter cold or summer heat—peaks are often seen to coincide with religious festivals, notably Eid, following the end of Ramadan.”

Concerns on the banning of live exports for slaughter were raised by three SNP MPs and Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP and Conservative MPs Bill Wiggin and Colin Clarke.

David Linden the SNP Whip outlined the SNP position and said:

“It is indeed a pleasure to speak from the Front Bench on behalf of the Scottish National party. I want to outline our position on live animal exports. We are committed to the welfare of all animals during transport within and outwith the UK. I am afraid we cannot support any moves that create further challenges or disadvantages for our livestock sector, or indeed for Scottish agriculture. We feel that current EU legislation is sufficient. Many good measures that protect animals are already in place, including journey logs and, if appropriate, resting at control posts.”

Labour MPs Kerry Mc Carthy and David Drew spoke on the suffering of animals exported for slaughter and that they would support an end to live exports for slaughter.

Farming Minister George Eustice responded to the MPs  areas of concern and finally  summed up the debate by concluding:

“We have had a detailed and comprehensive debate, covering many issues. The Government are absolutely aware of the importance of this issue to the public. That is why we included it in our manifesto. I hope that the points that I have made have reassured hon. Members that we are addressing this issue.”

No major announcement was made during the debate, although DEFRA Minister George Eustice did confirm that the Government are looking into the issue of live exports and how best to legislate on it.

Our Co founder Lorraine Platt was present at the event and said: “It’s very welcome that this debate is taking place today. There is a huge support from MPs, celebrities and the British public for an end to live exports for slaughter. Last month, the Stop Live Export Petition Team  along with ourselves and  Compassion in World farming  organised a parliamentary event to raise awareness of the cruel live exports for slaughter trade and to call upon MPs to push for a ban. The reception attracted over 50 MPs and high profile supporters including Joanna Lumley and Selina Scott, Jan Leeming, Georgia Toffolo, Stanley Johnson, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Sir Frederick Forsyth. We earlier held a joint parliamentary reception  in December ,with the Conservative Environment Network, hosted by Sir Roger Gale MP to bring attention to our campaigns including our aim to end live exports for slaughter and fattening. We were delighted that the Secretary of State Michael Gove delivered a speech on animal welfare and the environment including  his desire to take action  to end the misery and suffering  of animals involved in live exports for slaughter.”

There is a Private Members Bill in the current session, aimed at a live export ban with exemption for the Northern Ireland border as soon as the UK leaves the EU.

Our Patron Sir David Amess  MP speaks out against live exports video:

On February 28th, 2018, posted in: Food, Farming & Animal Welfare, Press Release by