‘Historic’ UK Live Exports Ban Is Finally Becoming Law

Campaigners have fought for the ban for 50 years

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3 Minutes Read

sheep being exported Sheep, cows, and pigs will be saved from horrific journeys - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

A bill to ban live animal exports from the UK has passed its final stage in Parliament and will soon become law.

The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will put an end to the export of cows, sheeps, and pigs for fattening or slaughter. The Bill has been making its way through Parliament since a 2020 government consultation showed that 87 percent of respondents wanted to see live exports banned.

Read more: Cape Town Residents Sent Home From Work Due To Smell From Live Export Ship

“This is a huge day to celebrate and one that has been long-awaited,” Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) – which has long campaigned for the ban – said in a statement. “For decades, farmed animals have endured these senseless and arduous exports to the continent – but no longer! I am phenomenally proud of our supporters whose dedication and persistence have helped secure this hard-fought victory.”

‘Horrific journeys’

Activists dressed in sheep costumes on the underground
Compassion in World Farming CIWF members have long campaigned to end live exports

The 1.6 million animals previously exported from the UK each year endured what campaigners describe as “horrific journeys” lasting many hours. They were “crammed” onto trucks “with little space to sit, stand, or lie down,” said Sonul Badiani-Hamment, Country Director of FOUR PAWS UK. 

Read more: This Popular Spanish Tourist Destination Has A Dark Side: The Live Animal Export Trade

The animals suffered from injuries, mental exhaustion and distress, hunger, and dehydration, with food and water sometimes not provided at all. Temperature extremes added to the physical dangers and stress experienced by the animals, which included young male calves unwanted by the dairy industry. Journeys could last up to 96 hours, and at the end of them, animals could be slaughtered in brutal ways that would be illegal in the UK.  

Exports have been on hold since December 2020, but campaigners had worried these could restart at any moment. Now that the Bill has passed its third and final reading, that risk has been extinguished.

Yvonne Birchall, from Kent Action Against Live Exports (KAALE) said: “For 29 years, KAALE and their supporters have demonstrated outside UK ports as live export shipments have been loaded on vessels bound for Europe … our members are the last friendly faces millions of animals will have seen before being exported. We are delighted that the law will finally ban this cruel trade and the people of Kent will no longer need to stand up in opposition to it.”

‘Growing momentum’

CIWF said that the new legislation was “growing momentum” around the world to end live exports. In 2023, a Brazilian court banned live cattle exports and a ban came into force in New Zealand to end all live exports by sea for cattle, sheep, deer, and goats. The Australian government recently announced that live sheep exports would end in 2028. But the ban is not yet law and will face strong opposition from the farming sector and right-wing politicians. 

Read more: Live Export Ship Carrying 16,000 Animals Stranded At Sea For A Month

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