live cattle

Many countries are banning live exports of animals for slaughter or fattening

A commitment to banning live exports of animals in the King’s Speech has been hailed by animal campaign groups as a ‘historic’ achievement.

The live export ban issue was among those raised in the King’s Speech on Tuesday, which set out the government’s agenda for the coming political year.

Ministers committed to moving forward with the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill, effectively ending the live exports of animals from Britain for slaughter or fattening.

The announcement builds on a previous pledge from former Defra Secretary George Eustice in December 2020.

The Kept Animals Bill was meant to be the cornerstone of the government’s post-Brexit animal welfare agenda but ended up being shelved in May this year.

The RSPCA, which has been campaigning to outlaw live exports for more than 50 years, hailed the inclusion of stronger animal welfare legislation in the government’s proposals as “a historic day”.

David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: “After half a century of campaigning to see an end of live exports, we’re incredibly pleased that the UK government has prioritised this – albeit as the only animal welfare issue taken forward in their programme.

“This King’s Speech, the last one before the election, is an acid test of the UK government’s true commitment to animal welfare and we now urge them to make good on this promise, finally get this legislation over the line, and bring in a ban on this cruel and barbaric practice.”

The last live export to leave the UK was on 31 December 2020. However, campaigners argue that with no law in place the practice could start again at any time.

Bowles added the “UK government has been dragging its feet on bringing in a ban, which is why having the importance of this issue recognised in the King’s Speech is such a significant moment”.

The RSPCA claimed that transporting live cattle in “long, crowded journeys” abroad was a practice generally done under poor conditions, which were detrimental to the animals’ welfare and posed a challenge to businesses dealing with overstocking or sick or injured animals.

Several countries, including Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, have recently rolled out similar rules around exports of livestock.

Compassion in World Farming also said this decision from the British government was “long overdue”.