London 15.01.24: Imagine being put in a tiny, cramped cage, packed full with other terrified calves, goats or sheep, with little to no space to move around. Then put on a boat, or taken long distances by road, in terrible conditions, transported across the rocky seas, or bumpy land, surrounded by your own excrement, unable to rest or sleep or stand or sit without pain. Just to face slaughter when your journey is complete or be overfed to fatten you up for killing.
That has been the reality for many hundreds of thousands of animals who have been exported from Great Britain to third countries, and it must stop. Parliament has a rare opportunity today to say ‘no more’ and to relegate this cruel practice to the history books.
Today, the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will be debated in the House of Commons by a Committee of the whole house, with all Members of Parliament able to take part – moving this important legislation one huge step closer to becoming law. At FOUR PAWS UK, we are delighted that the Government is working hard to speed through this long-awaited legislation. In the future, animals will be spared from being exported in cruel and horrific conditions, and that cannot happen quickly enough.
But what is this Bill and why is it so desperately needed? In 2019, a Freedom of Information request (FOI) showed that around 35,000 live sheep and calves were exported for the purposes of slaughter or fattening in that one year alone. To break it down, 30,980 sheep were exported from the UK to countries over 2,000 miles away, and 3,549 calves were exported, with nearly all being shipped from Scotland to Spain on a journey lasting over 60 hours.
Fortunately, these live exports have been on hold because of the challenges of moving animals across borders. But without legislation which explicitly bans this practice, there is a very real risk of these cruel exports starting again at any moment. That’s why now is the time to make sure this Bill becomes law, and to put these protections in place for animals without delay.
This legislation is the result of many years of hard work across the animal welfare sector. To our colleagues at Compassion in World Farming and the RSPCA who have never let up their efforts, thank you. People across the country have also stood tall for animals, with many thousands of FOUR PAWS supporters taking action, and MPs who have made sure this important issue doesn’t fall off the political agenda. It is these collective efforts that have led us to this historic moment. Every voice has been loud and clear - the export of live animals for slaughter from Britain’s shores is cruel and unnecessary and must stop.
Today, we hope that dozens of MPs attend what will hopefully be the final historic stages in the House of Commons of the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill before this legislation is ushered through the House of Lords and on to Royal Assent to become law as quickly as possible. We know there are many MPs who share our vision of a world in which animals are safe from this barbaric practice. We will also be keenly following an amendment to the Bill which, if successful, would give the Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the ability to expand the species protected from live exports, if the evidence deemed it appropriate.
Animals across the country need protection, and today offers a unique chance to make world leading progress. We hope this opportunity will not be missed and stand ready to support the Government to make this law a reality and ensure it is implemented without delay, consigning the live export of animals for slaughter and fattening to the history books.
Sonul Badiani-Hamment- UK Country Director, FOUR PAWS UK