The debate was raised by Thanet MP Laura Sandys in response to the incident in September at Ramsgate in which more than 40 sheep had to be shot on welfare grounds and 2 drowned after falling into water. It was agreed across the benches that incidents such as these should never be allowed to happen again.
MPs also agreed that travel for farm animals should be kept to an absolute minimum with some calling on the adoption of a maximum 8 hour limit - although several MPs pointed out that this would seriously disadvantage producers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, arguing that time was not the only considerations.
Other suggestions included enabling ports to be able to make their own decisions on live exports and be legally able to say ‘no’ to live trade, and for enforcement costs of regulations on the trade to be paid by those involved in the industry, rather than the tax-payer.
Thanet MP Laura Sandys, who called the debate, said that pressure must been applied in Brussels to raise standards and address the licensing regimes across Europe.
Shadow Defra Minister Huw Irranca-Davies said the review should be focused on animal welfare, as well as the considerations and economics of the trade that most people wanted to see, which was an increase in the export of meat and not animals.
MPs suggested that the review would also look at the suitability of vessels and the availability of emergency facilities at ports, as well as investigating whether a reduction in the number and geographical spread of abattoirs was a factor in the live export trade, a problem Agriculture Minister David Heath described as “significant”.
Thanet MP Laura Sandys said that pressure must been applied in Brussels to raise standards and address the licensing regimes across Europe.
Animals rights charity the RSPCA, which is opposed to the live exports at the port of Ramsgate welcomed the review and said it was pleased that cross-party MPs are determind to end the suffering of livestock. However chief executive Gavin Grant challenged the Minister’s confidence that supervised loading of animals is acceptable. He said: "Our inspectors who are at the port for every sailing see that this is no substitute for proper inspections of the animals at the port.
“The RSPCA is currently considering taking on a Judicial Review in the High Court into live exports, following Thanet Council’s recent decision to pull out of a Judicial Review.”
Last week Defra announced it was beefing up checks on animals from the port of Ramsgate in the wake of the incident and adopting a 'zero tolerance' attitude to breaches of regulations. The increased level of inspections will remain until the government is satisfied that there is no longer a high risk to the welfare of the animals involved in the live export trade.