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Live Animal Exports

Volume 563: debated on Thursday 16 May 2013

3. If he will consider banning live animal exports from British ports; and if he will make a statement. (155336)

Banning the export of live animals would be illegal and undermine the principle of the free movement of goods enshrined in the treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

My constituents are concerned about live animal exports: they think them bad for animal welfare and the local economy. Will the Minister confirm that no amendment could be made to any of the harbours or ports Acts that would be effective in tackling this cruel and unwanted trade?

The key piece of legislation here is the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847, which would be a singularly inappropriate vehicle for any such ban, because its aim is to ensure that ports are available to all without discrimination. Even were one to set that aside, however, no such ban would be legal under the free trade rules that this country is not only a signatory to, but the architect of.

Does the Minister envisage that in any renegotiation of the terms of the UK’s membership of the EU, the capacity to change the law in this regard would be one of the things agreed?

We should not confuse animal welfare issues, on which we will continue to push for changes, and the free movement of goods and services, on which this country has a clear position. We are in favour of the free movement of goods and services, and we are unlikely to argue for significant changes to that basic principle.