Livestock export welfare rules to be reviewed

Agriculture Minister Jim Paice has announced welfare rules would be tightened at the port of Ramsgate, after it was brought to his attention that delays had occurred in loading animals onto the ships. In response to the delays, the government has written to exporters to warn them of the consequences of not observing the law on animal welfare standards.

“I want all those involved in the export of live animals to be under no illusion that we take animal welfare very seriously,” said Paice, adding that he wanted to see all livestock slaughtered “as close as possible to where they are farmed.”

He also welcomed the news that the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) is currently updating guidelines on the regulatory actions that can be taken in relation to welfare in transport rules.

Paice’s comments come after campaigners launched an e-petition to ban all livestock exports from Ramsgate, with the hope of instigating a pan-European debate. Thanet councillor Ian Driver, who started the initiative, argued that exports of live animals had become unnecessary, and said the UK should influence European legislation to abolish it.  The petition, which is backed by RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming. has attracted over 5,000 signatures.

However, Eblex head of trade development Peter Hardwick believes the European Commission is unlikely to ban exports, as animal welfare is often better-served by transporting livestock across a border rather than inside their country of origin. “Cross-border livestock export is a major issue that affects many member states, and people in Ramsgate will not get the European Commission to ban it, I can guarantee it,” he told Meat Trades Journal.

According to Hardwick, it is much better for animals reared in Alsace, a north-eastern region of France, to be exported to Germany than sent down to Marseilles, and this principle is applicable to most European countries. “It is much more complex for us, because exporting involves crossing the Channel, but in some cases it is still better to put animals on a ship for a short time than to drive them to Yorkshire,” he added.

“Unfortunately, the issue is not well-expressed by the people looking at it in Ramsgate. It is not about live animal exports, but about welfare standards on boats, which are already being reviewed by the European Commission.”

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