The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world which the Government continues to strengthen further.
My ministerial colleagues and I recognise that long journey times for slaughter and fattening pose welfare risks including stress, exhaustion and injury. I understand that the shortest direct to slaughter export journey from Great Britain to continental Europe in 2018 was a journey time of 18 hours. Most domestic journeys to slaughter in the UK are significantly shorter. In 2020, the Government carried out a consultation on ending live animal exports, and 87 per cent of respondents agreed that livestock and horses should not be exported for slaughter and fattening.
Now that the UK is no longer in the European Union, the Government can end live animal exports, further strengthening animal welfare protections. The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill delivers the Government’s manifesto commitment by banning the live export of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses for slaughter and fattening. It will prevent unnecessary long export journeys, instead using shorter and less stressful domestic journeys. The Bill will ensure that animals are slaughtered domestically, in high welfare UK slaughterhouses and preventing the export to unknown and likely lower welfare slaughterhouse conditions. These new rules will still allow live animal exports in other circumstances, for example for breeding and competitions, provided they are transported in line with legal requirements aimed at protecting their welfare.
While no animals have been exported for slaughter from Great Britain since the Government announced its intention to bring forward a ban in 2021, I know that this Bill makes this permanent. I am assured that this legislation reinforces the UK’s position as a world leader on animal welfare, boosting the value of British meat and helping to grow the economy.
I welcome that the Bill had its Second Reading in the House of Commons in December and I look forward to supporting this Bill as it continues to progress through Parliament.