Any live export ban 'must be rooted in science', experts warn

Plans to ban exports of live animals for slaughter were unveiled in December 2020
Plans to ban exports of live animals for slaughter were unveiled in December 2020

Any regulatory changes introduced as a result of the consultation on the welfare of live animals in transport must be 'evidence-based and rooted in science', industry experts say.

Plans to ban the exports of live animals for slaughter were unveiled by Defra in December, despite longstanding concerns by the livestock sector.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said the controversial measure could be in force by the end of this year.

The plan forms part of an eight-week consultation, launched in December in England and Wales, which is seeking farmers' views.

According to Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W) – whose members represent the breadth of the supply chain – any new standards should be subject to a welfare benefit assessment and cost benefit analysis before being formalised.

The industry group said safeguarding the welfare of animals should be the primary focus of any regulatory change.

Nigel Miller, chairman of RH&W said: “Appropriate regulation must be supported by effective monitoring and enforcement.

"Some of the welfare problems identified in other European jurisdictions are the result of non-compliance and weak enforcement, not regulatory failure.”

The proposed ban on live exports would also have far-reaching consequences, he warned, something which the government must plan for – including building regional abattoir capacity.

“Defra should, if a trade ban is implemented, take responsibility for the impact on businesses," Mr Miller said.

The government must support the development not only of sustainable high welfare rearing systems, but markets for the classes of stock which have previously been reared in Europe.

The introduction of temperature monitoring and forced ventilation to long distance transport vehicles was one of the positive welfare innovations supported by the current legislation, Mr Miller said.

“However, it is clear that across the farmed species there are significant differences in their response to, and tolerance of, both high and low temperatures," he added.

There was now an opportunity to adopt a more inclusive approach, to involve those with direct experience and relevant expertise to underpin the design of the proposed legislation, said Mr Miller.

“We believe time should be taken to use that resource to take the development process forward.”