Defra publishes their response to ‘live export’ consultation

Posted on the 1st September 2021

Following Defra’s 12-week consultation on live exports, to which 184 Animal Aid supporters submitted responses, Defra has published their response.

We are extremely grateful to our supporters for taking the time and trouble to take part, as this was far more challenging than other previous consultations. We were encouraged to hear that 11,395 responses, in total, were received.

It has been stated that live animal exports for slaughter and fattening could be banned as early as January next year, as legislation is already working its way through Parliament. There are also some proposed improvements in conditions for domestic journeys, but we believe these proposals could have gone much further to better protect farmed animals such as sheep and cows from the stress and suffering of extensive and cramped journeys. Animal Aid would like to see a total ban on live exports with no exceptions, we believe that farmed animals should not be transported at all. However, we welcome this positive step on the road to eliminating our use and abuse of animals.

Defra’s own press release stated:

‘Independent evidence has shown that very long journeys can cause heat stress, dehydration and physical injuries in transported animals such as horses, pigs, sheep, poultry and cattle.’ 

We are disappointed that the ban does not cover all live animal exports, only cows, sheep, goats, pigs and horses being sent for slaughter or fattening, travelling from or through England, Wales and Scotland. Animals being exported for ‘breeding’ can still be sent, as can birds such as pheasants, geese, partridges, quail, chickens, turkeys or ducks.

Although the consultation proposed some tightening of the rules to bring in shorter journey times, more headroom, and stricter rules on animals being transported in extreme temperatures, we still contend that no farmed animals should be transported.

In summary, the following are proposals for journey times for journeys over 65km (40 miles) in England and Wales:

  • Currently, farmed animals can be in transit for 28 hours, with a one-hour mid-journey break, followed by a 24-hour rest period before the next movement. This can lead to very long journeys to the animal’s ultimate destination.
  • For cows and sheep, Defra proposes a 21-hour maximum journey time. A reduction of 7 hours, however this is still a very long time to be in transit and would be exhausting for the animals.
  • For pigs, Defra proposes an 18-hour maximum, reduced to 12 hours for weaners (young piglets who no longer nurse from their mother). This is a very long time for pigs, who can suffer from heat stroke and motion sickness. There may be an exemption for ‘breeding pigs’. The UK presently doesn’t export pigs for fattening or slaughter but they are trucked throughout the UK to slaughter.
  • For calves, there is a proposed nine-hour maximum for animals aged up to nine months old. Although an improvement, we feel that an opportunity has been missed to ban the live export of un-weaned calves. They cannot adequately be fed liquid feed replacer on transporters and lack a fully functional immune system.
  • For chickens farmed for their meat a four-hour maximum is proposed, which is an improvement.
  • ‘Recently-hatched chicks’ can continue to be in transit for 24-hours. About 25 million chicks (including turkeys) and ducklings were sent out of the UK in 2018, in an industry worth £139m to the UK, according to HMRC data. The trade in chicks is lucrative with ‘high value breeding stock’. They may be sent as far afield as Malaysia or Bangladesh. This trade will continue.

Alongside other proposals, Defra’s consultation response states:

‘We will work closely with industry, NGOs and other stakeholders on our proposed policies through a series of workshops starting in the autumn, to explore some of the issues and the evidence in more detail and develop workable solutions which will generate good welfare outcomes. Once agreed, a package of reforms will be implemented through secondary legislation or guidance, as appropriate.’

We will do all we can to input into this process and will keep you updated on our progress.

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