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Great Britain bans live animal transport

It is the first European region to do so


24 May 2024

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3 minute read

A new ban on exporting live animals came into law on Monday, as the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Act received Royal Assent, capitalising on a post-Brexit freedoms and bolstering the UK’s position as a world leader in animal welfare standards, according to a government-issued press release

The legislation delivers on a key manifesto commitment to ban the export of live animals including cattle, sheep, and pigs for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain.

It is only possible now the UK has left the European Union, and will stop animals enduring stress, exhaustion and injury on long and unnecessary export journeys.

The Act will ensure that animals are slaughtered domestically in high welfare UK slaughterhouses, reinforcing our position as a nation of animal lovers and a world leader on animal welfare, boosting the value of British meat and helping to grow the economy.

“We are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world,” said Environment Secretary Steve Barclay. “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.”

As the highest ranked G7 nation according to World Animal Protection’s Index, the government is committed to high animal welfare standards and ensuring all animals are treated well at all stages of life. We have been clear that 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. The legislation follows a consultation on ending live animal exports in which 87% of respondents agreed that livestock should not be exported for slaughter and fattening.

This Bill also follows a manifesto commitment and Action Plan for Animal Welfare pledge to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening. Enabling regulations will be made as soon as possible to bring the ban into force.

The Act is just one part of a wider Government effort to enhance our existing world-leading standards. For farm animals, we have introduced new statutory welfare codes for pigs, laying hens and meat chickens, banned the use of conventional battery cages for laying hens and made CCTV mandatory in slaughterhouses.

Since publishing the Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021, we have brought in new laws to recognise animal sentience, introduced tougher penalties for animal cruelty offences, announced an extension of the ivory ban to cover other ivory bearing species, supported legislation to ban glue traps and the import of detached shark fins, and introduced measures to ban the advertising and offering for sale of low welfare activities abroad.

We have also achieved our commitment to deliver the Kept Animals Bill measures individually, with all of the measures that require legislation back before Parliament and the pets as primate restrictions already law, the government-issued press release concluded.