Brexit may provide Britain with the potential to become a global leader in animal welfare, as per live exporting proposals being considered by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
Mr Gove is considered a widespread ban on the live export of animals in a move that has been widely welcomed by critics of live exporting.
The environment secretary has asked industry experts and campaigners to submit evidence on the process, with “all options” being considered.
The rules of the European Union’s single market currently prevent the UK from banning exports of livestock, but free from the shackles of European legislation, the UK may be able to control our own legislation and become a world leader in animal welfare.
At last estimate, the National Farmers Union said up to 20,000 live sheep – but no cattle – were exported to Europe in 2017.
Launching the consultation, Gove said the UK already had some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world but the government was committed to a manifesto promise to improve them further.
“All animals deserve to get the respect and care they deserve at every stage of their lives,” he said. “With all options being considered, I am keen to hear from industry, the devolved authorities and charities on all possible options and evidence on this vital issue.”
Campaigners against live exports of livestock welcomed the move. Marc Cooper, the head of the RSPCA’s farm animals department, said the charity had been calling for a ban for decades:
“It’s unacceptable and completely unnecessary that live animals are exported and transported over long distances for slaughter or further fattening,” he said. “We would like to see live exports from the UK banned and a maximum journey time of eight hours introduced. This is a chance to end the practice for good and we look forward to contributing to the review.”
This is a crucial point, we must view this as an opportunity to become global leaders and set an example to the rest of the world on the best practice for animal welfare.
John Fishwick, the President of the British Veterinary Association agrees with the RSPCA saying that:
“It is vital that we maintain the UK’s current high standards of animal welfare post-Brexit and seek opportunities to improve them. We look forward to contributing to this call and seeing the results once the evidence has been collected.”
The Farm Animal Welfare Committee has also launched a review into existing welfare standards for animals during transport and further research on the issue is being carried out by Scotland’s Rural College and the University of Edinburgh.
The UK now can ensure legislation is carefully considered and allows us to set the example for the rest of the world.