Government must put the welfare of farm animals before trade

Tomorrow, Parliament will explore whether the government could help end the cruel and needless trade in farm animals.

MPs will discuss the second reading of Craig Mackinlay MP’s Bill which calls for the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act to be amended to allow ports the discretion to refuse the live exports trade. The Act, passed in 1847, fails to recognise that animals are ‘sentient beings’ and not ‘goods’.

Keith Taylor MEP, the Green Party’s Animals spokesperson, said: “We have a moral duty to treat animals with compassion. There is growing concern about the welfare of animals enduring long journeys only to be killed on arrival. Urgent action is needed to bring this trade to an end. No animal should suffer.”

Live exports sail regularly from the ports in Dover and Ramsgate, Kent, but, in 2012, Thanet Council temporarily suspended trade from the Port of Ramsgate following an incident in which claimed the lives of 45 sheep. The suspension was overturned due to free-trade rules. In Dover, councillors on the Scrutiny Committee recommended that the Council seek urgent amendments to the 1847 Act to allow the port town to choose whether to continue facilitating the trade.

Keith continued: “The council and local residents have clearly said they want an opportunity to stop the live export trade on their doorsteps. The campaign to see this outdated law updated is supported by hundreds of thousands of compassionate people who want to put an end to this cruel trade.”

The Bill before Parliament has been tabled following the outcome of the EU referendum. Ministers have claimed that EU trade rules have prevented them from banning live exports. However, the government has signalled its apathy on this issue on many occasions. In fact, Defra still refuses to insist that all lorries carrying animals are checked by Animal Health Officials are the port, despite one transporting company being convicted of animal welfare offences. Outside of the EU, the UK would also be bound by similar free-trade rules a member of the World Trade Organisation.

However, the recently launched Stop The Trucks campaigns is calling on the EU Commission to review and update transport regulations, to impose maximum journey times and better conditions that align with animal welfare science. Austria, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands have all submitted an official request for such and if enforced it could help bring about an end to live exports from the UK.

Keith concluded: “Outdated UK laws must be amended to properly recognise the welfare of animals. This may take time, and, therefore, I urge Ministers put urgent measures in place to immediately protect the hundreds of sheep leaving our shores today. I will also continue, alongside my Green colleagues in the European Parliament, to campaign for an end to long distance transport for millions of farm animals across Europe.”

To take action against long distance transport you can support the campaign to Stop the Trucks: