Sheep farmers 'astonished' over live export ban proposal

Sheep farmers have criticised Theresa Villiers' proposal for farmers to sell to the closest abattoir as one that 'defies belief' (Photo: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Sheep farmers have criticised Theresa Villiers' proposal for farmers to sell to the closest abattoir as one that 'defies belief' (Photo: NEIL HALL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Sheep farmers have highlighted their 'astonishment' over the government's proposal to put in a place a live export ban once the UK leaves the EU.

Defra Secretary Theresa Villiers is proposing a ban on live exports of farm animals, stating that livestock should only be slaughtered at their most local abattoir.

A consultation will be created to gather opinion on the controversial proposal.

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has already criticised the plan, saying that it 'exposes a serious lack of knowledge' of how the industry works.



The group adds that there is an 'absence of awareness' of transport related welfare research.

Sheep farmers fear that any move to put in place a live export ban would create serious issues for the supply chain, resulting in a loss of choice in business options.



NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker explains: “Over a year ago we went through intense discussions on the subject of live exports and as a result the Secretary of State of the day appeared to accept that a ban on live exports was not necessary and a system that offered greater controls and assurances was preferable.

“Now we seem to back at square one again. With a new Secretary of State, with new ideas and the circus goes around again.”

The proposal suggested animals should sent to the most local abattoir. Mr Stocker continues: “To suggest a requirement that farmers should have to sell to the closest abattoir defies belief. I have to question how ministers think markets function.

“They claim to understand the need for options in order to be able to negotiate with the EU but then suggest we take market options away from livestock farmers.

“Imagine such a requirement in a livestock market when only one buyer, the local abattoir, can bid for your animals – it wouldn’t do much to improve the profitability or productivity of farms.”

He added: “If the government is serious about such a radical idea then it would have to offer slaughtering as a public service with the market functioning after that point – and that would result in a restructuring of our industry in a way that would put all the other ideas that have been discussed into the shade.”

The government intends to publicly consult on this proposal and other related livestock management issues.



The NSA said it will oppose proposals that 'risk damaging the industry', but will support initiatives that 'genuinely improve' the health and welfare of sheep.