Live Export of Animals: January 2024

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for contacting me about live animal exports.

The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and it is right for us to cement our status as a global leader by continuing to raise the bar. I am sure that, like me, you welcome the news that the King's Speech includes the proposed legislation on live exports and I share your commitment to ensuring that it is now delivered.

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.

I know that the UK has long led the way on animal welfare. In 2021, the Government's Action Plan for Animal Welfare, set out reforms for this Parliament and beyond. Since then, the Government has passed the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act, recognising the sentience of vertebrate animals and some invertebrate animals. In addition, the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act introduced tougher sentences for cruelty, increasing maximum sentences. The Ivory Act came into force in 2022 and has recently been extended to cover five more endangered species. These are some of the measures which have been introduced in recent years to improve animal welfare and strengthen the sanctions. In addition I know that the RSPCA can investigate allegations of animal welfare offences where additional powers are needed, for example to seize animals. I understand that local authorities, the Animal & Plant Health Agency and the police often work in close partnership to ensure that the welfare of animals.

The Kept Animals Bill was designed to implement several ambitions for animal welfare, including banning the live exports of animals. However, the Bill’s multi-issue nature meant that there was considerable scope creep, and the Bill risked going beyond the original commitments in the manifesto on which I was elected and those set out in the action plan. Therefore, the Government announced in May that it would take forward measures in the Kept Animals Bill individually during the remainder of the Parliament.

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.

I am assured by my ministerial colleagues that they are committed to ending the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter. As you know, there have not been any live exports for fattening or slaughter since 2020 and the Government wants to make this permanent through legislation as soon as Parliamentary time allows.

You can read more about the Government’s plans for animal welfare in their Action Plan for Animal Welfare which I provide the link to here:

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.