Published: 14:44, 03 December 2020
| Updated: 15:19, 03 December 2020
A plan to ban the export of live animals for slaughter has been unveiled by the government in what could be a major step towards scrapping a practice branded "foul and unnecessary".
Campaigners argue the animals frequently suffer excessively long journeys, condemning the practice as cruel and inhumane.
Environment secretary George Eustice has now revealed plans to ban such exports, which includes an eight-week consultation in England and Wales, seeking views on how to better protect animal welfare during transport.
Previously, EU rules prevented any changes to this trade, but Brexit has paved the way for plans which would prevent the unnecessary suffering of animals.
It would make this country the first in Europe to end the practice.
The government is also consulting on proposals to improve animal welfare in transport more generally, such as reducing maximum journey times, giving animals more space and headroom during transports, and strengthening rules on transporting animals in extreme temperatures.
South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has welcomed the move.
“As I expected, with Brexit talks approaching some kind of conclusion, the issue of live transports via Ramsgate Port has climbed up the political ladder," he said.
“This is a totemic issue for me and I will work with Conservative ministers and backbenchers to put a stop to this foul and unnecessary trade until we are successful.
“We can now rethink the length of journeys for all farmed animals. I should additionally like to see local farming with local slaughter guaranteeing quality and unnecessarily long transport times.”
Mr Eustice says the plan marks a major step forward to ending live exports for slaughter.
“Now that we have left the EU, we have an opportunity to end this unnecessary practice," he said.
"We want to ensure that animals are spared stress prior to slaughter."
But Ramsgate county councillor Karen Constantine says the consultation is a slap in the face.
"Campaigners were assured by Craig Mackinlay that this vile trade would end once we had left the EU," she said.
"I think it’s clear that the trade in live sheep will continue beyond January 1, 2021.
"I am concerned that Ramsgate will have to endure this shameful export for many months to come.
"I also fear we will see many more day-old chicks being exported by lorry and ferry as the aviation industry struggles to recover.
"This means longer journeys and extra suffering for animals.
"I cannot see the efficacy for a consultation as there is a pre-existing wealth of expertise and evidence on animal welfare.
"This as an exercise is kicking important issues into the long grass.
"With just a few weeks to go, the government has so far failed to achieve a Brexit deal, which means road chaos, especially at ports, is now almost inevitable.
"Any animal in transit may be subject to potentially distressing delays and I am not yet convinced that Kent County Council has sufficient provisions to prevent this from happening or have robust contingency plans in place.
"This is another example of voters being cynically manipulated and promised progress which turns out out to be anything but."
About 6,400 animals were transported from the UK directly to slaughter in continental Europe in 2018.