UK law ends live animal exports

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Legislation ending exports of livestock for slaughter and fattening receives Royal Assent. Credit: Getty/Miguel Perfectti
Legislation ending exports of livestock for slaughter and fattening receives Royal Assent. Credit: Getty/Miguel Perfectti

Related tags Trade Regulation

The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Act has received Royal Assent and mandates that animals are slaughtered domestically.

The new UK law will prevent the exportation of live animals for fattening and slaughter from the UK; and covers cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses.

The Act, which came into effect today (20 May 2024), follows a consultation on ending live animal exports in which 87% of respondents agreed livestock should not be exported for these purposes.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said the Government is “proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world” ​and this law capitalises on the nation’s new-found independence.

Our new Act makes use of post-Brexit freedoms to deliver one of our manifesto commitments and strengthen these standards even further by preventing the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, which we know causes animals unnecessary stress and injury," ​he said.

Adding his thoughts, the RSPCA’s chief executive, Chris Sherwood, said the legislation is a big win after more than 50 years of campaigning.

“This means British animals will no longer be sent on gruelling journeys abroad for further fattening and slaughter in cramped and poor conditions with little or no access to food or water,”​ Sherwood continued.

“As one of the first countries in the world to abolish this practice, this vital step for animal welfare sends an important message globally and we hope to see other countries follow suit soon."

Under this new rule, animals should only be transported when necessary, and if possible, should not travel long distances to be slaughtered.

Live exports in other specific circumstances, for example, for breeding and competitions, will still be allowed, provided animals are transported in line with legal requirements which protect their welfare.

This new legislation is part of wider government plans to enhance UK animal standards, with GB already the highest ranking among G7 nations, according to the World Animal Protection’s Index.

These plans follow the publication of the first Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021 and have since seen the UK Government bring in new laws to recognise animal sentience, introduce tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences, announce an extension of the ivory ban to cover other ivory bearing species, support for legislation to ban glue traps and the import of detached shark fins, alongside the introduction of measures to ban the advertising and offering for sale of 'low welfare activities' abroad.

The UK has also brought in additional rules for farm animals as of late, including new statutory welfare codes for pigs, laying hens and meat chickens, the prohibition of conventional battery cages for laying hens , and the mandatory roll out of CCTV within slaughterhouses.

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Related topics Legal Meat, poultry & seafood Brexit

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