Bill to ban live export of animals for slaughter passes first hurdle

EU law prevents any restriction on imports and exports between Member States
EU law prevents any restriction on imports and exports between Member States

An MP's bill to ban live export of animals for slaughter hopes to set out ways in which the UK can do so after Brexit.

Former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, MP for Chipping Barnet, has put forward the Live Animal Exports (Prohibition) Bill. It has passed the first hurdle in Parliament on Wednesday (25 October).

The Bill will set out a case to garner support from MPs, laying the groundwork to persuade the Government to bring about an end to this trade in future legislation.

David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs for the RSPCA said the organisation "strongly supports" Ms Villiers’ Bill.

“These animals can suffer from exhaustion and dehydration, temperature extremes and lack of food, water or rest,” Mr Bowles said.

“It’s unacceptable that live animals are still being transported over long distances in such shocking and stressful conditions to the continent and then subjected to never ending journeys

“We also have grave concerns about the patchy enforcement of live transport laws - something highlighted by recent European Commission reports - and the fact that animals are being exported to countries where they face conditions considered illegal in the UK.”

EU regulations

EU law prevents any restriction on imports and exports between Member States.

After Brexit, the UK will no longer be constrained by these regulations on the free movement of goods and live animals.

Defra Secretary Michael Gove has publicly said that the government is "committed to taking steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter as we leave the EU."

The Conservative government of 1992 sought to restrict live exports and refuse licenses to export sheep to Spain, but the decision was overturned by the European Court of Justice on the grounds that it would breach EU rules on the freedom of goods.


The National Sheep Association (NSA) said it is "dismayed and disturbed" by the bill.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “To me this suggests an unwillingness to work with the industry on practical solutions that really will improve animal welfare rather than just pander to the noise being made by campaigners.

“For sheep a ban on live exports would put an end to the majority of our live export movements across the Irish border when these animals may only travel short distances.

“Thankfully Ministers have recognised Brexit as an opportunity to control or restructure live movements rather than suggesting they want to ban them.

“The fact still remains that exports per se do not damage welfare, and neither does taking animals across water.

“Any problems that do occur happen because of a lack or regulatory compliance and that is why the NSA has been talking about exploring a concept of assured routes where transparency and traceability can be guaranteed.”