Ban on live animal exports passes final stage in parliament

The bill delivers on a Conservative Party commitment to ban the export of live animals
The bill delivers on a Conservative Party commitment to ban the export of live animals

A ban on live animal exports has passed its final stage in parliament and will soon be enshrined in law.

The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will mean that livestock can no longer be exported from Great Britain for slaughter or fattening.

On Tuesday (14 May), members of the House of Lords voted in favour of the bill, thus passing the final stage of its parliamentary journey.

Government data shows up to 40 million farm animals, including sheep, calves and pigs, have been exported from Britain for further rearing or slaughter since the 1960s.

At its height, one million animals were being exported annually - and animals have travelled from ports such as Dover, Ramsgate and Brightlingsea.

However, live exports in other specific circumstances, for example, for breeding and competitions, will still be allowed.

This is provided animals are transported in line with legal requirements aimed at protecting their welfare.

Some farming groups have frequently warned that any significant regulatory changes to live exports could potentially have a major impact on the UK food

The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) has said that a live export ban could 'cut off an essential lifeline' for sheep producers.

And the Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W) group – whose members represent the breadth of the supply chain – said Defra must take responsibility for the impact of the ban on businesses.

But Emma Slawinski, the RSPCA’s director for advocacy, has campaigned against live exports for years and has welcomed the bill's passing, saying the practice will be 'consigned to the history books'.

She added: “This is a momentous moment for animals - with this vote marking one of the biggest days for animal welfare in modern history.

Elsewhere in the world, Australia has committed to end the export of sheep by 1 May 2028.

Last year, a Brazilian court banned the export of live cattle from the country’s ports.