LIVE EXPORT of animals for slaughter overseas is being banned as part of a new package of measures jointly announced by the English and Welsh governments this week.

The planned changes to the animal transportation legislation, arising from a 12-week Defra consultation which closed in January, after attracting more than 11,000 responses, will also shorten domestic journey times, and impose stricter limits on maximum and minimum temperatures at time of travel.

However, there is not yet a fixed date for implementation of these changes, and there is acknowledgement that there will have to be further stakeholder discussion on the details – in particular, the possibility of derogations for shipments from the UK's more far-flung livestock producing regions

English NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “Animal welfare is always a top priority for any livestock or poultry farmer and we maintain that new rules or policy should be based on sound evidence and the latest science.

“We’re pleased to see in some areas Defra has taken account of the evidence we presented and made changes to its proposals. However, we’re disappointed that other elements are not more meaningfully welfare-focused, utilising driver training and experience. For example, we are frustrated that our proposal for a live export assurance scheme has been overlooked, which would have ensured UK rules on transport and processing would have followed animals to other countries."

However, the outcome of the Scottish Government's own consultation on the issue is still to be released.

NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy said: “While the results of this Defra consultation will apply to animals being transported within England and Wales and animal welfare in transport is a devolved matter, the livestock industry across the UK relies on free movement and transport between the devolved nations. Changes to the transport legislation cannot be looked at in isolation and will have an impact on production across the UK, particularly for some of the more remote areas in Scotland.

“We are pleased that Defra took into account the lengthy evidence we submitted on behalf of our members and, in particular, our submission around the sea transport and temperature proposals which have particular concerns for Scotland. Scotland is a nation of islands and livestock production is key to maintaining communities on those islands, therefore Defra’s decision not to implement their original proposal highlights the importance of accurate and factual submissions to consultations such as this."

Founder of the Sustainable Food Trust, Patrick Holden welcomed shorter livestock journey times, but added: "For this to work we urgently need more local slaughterhouses. As more and more people look to their diets as a way of living more sustainably, we can't deny that the rise in vegetarianism and veganism is also in large part fuelled by greater awareness of the impact of the industrialised meat industry on animal welfare.

"While we welcome the move, if we really want to respond to growing consumer demand, the government needs to go even further for all livestock and set a target of a maximum two hour journey time to slaughter. Not only would this vastly improve animal welfare, it would create the conditions for a renaissance in local and ethical meat production and consumption. Crucially, to allow this to happen, we need to boost the numbers of small, local abattoir across the UK that can supply the local farmers in their area."

The RSPCA noted that it had been campaigning on the livestock export issue for 50 years, and speculated that the ban on live animal exports for slaughter and fattening could be delivered as early as January 2022 as the legislation was already going through Parliament.

Director of Policy Emma Slawinski said: “For as long as I can remember there have been live export shipments out of the ports in southern England and every time it has been heartbreaking to think what the animals on board have suffered and endured. To know that now the RSPCA’s campaign has been a success and this practice will finally be brought to an end is a cause for celebration.”