Cows onboard a transportation truck

Livestock Export Bill is one for the history books

The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill looks set to become law very soon


The history of animal welfare in the UK can be measured out in a series of historic moments – from the banning of bull baiting and cockfighting in 1835, closing down of fur farms in the UK between 2000-2002, the Hunting Act in 2004, and the banning of wild animals in circuses in 2019.  

While the pace of reform can be slow, and there’s still a long list of changes we need to see, one of those historic moments occurred this afternoon in the House of Lords. The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill, which will prohibit the live export of cattle, sheep, and goats from Great Britain, took yet another step forward and looks set to become law very soon.  

For decades, campaigners have been highlighting the appalling welfare that animals experience as part of the live export trade. For the many thousands of people who took part in demonstrations against live exports at Channel ports like Dover and Ramsgate, this was an introduction to a cause they have never turned away from. Many of you will have been among them and will remember those grainy TV images of trucks loaded with cattle and sheep being driven onto freight ferries, and of the frightened, wide-eyed animals crammed inside with no ventilation, food, or water.  

There’s been recognition of the fact that welfare cannot be safeguarded during the long movement and transport of live animals. But while it has taken far too long and far too many animals have suffered, we still must celebrate the fact that soon, it will never happen again.

We can have no better example of the appallingly unnecessary cruelty than the debacle around the Bahija ship, loaded up with 16,000 animals in Australia back on January 5th, bound for the Middle East and forced to return due to instability in the Red Sea. The animals were finally offloaded back in Australia on February 12 having endured 40-degree temperatures on board while the authorities argued about how to solve the problem.     

The lead taken by the UK on this issue is already sparking discussions in Europe about live transport there too. It’s not overstretching the truth to say that the modern concept of animal welfare began in the UK and where we take a lead, other nations follow. 

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Simon Pope

Campaigns Lead UK

Simon works in the Campaigns Team at FOUR PAWS UK. He has a background in Campaign Communications across the charity sector. Simon is passionate about animal welfare and utilises his years of knowledge and experience to bring about change.

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