Skip to main content

Live Animals: Export Ban

Volume 831: debated on Monday 10 July 2023


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government whether they are going to ban the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening.

My Lords, the Government recognise the long-standing public concern about livestock and horses being exported for slaughter and fattening. We are determined to deliver our manifesto commitment to end this trade. There have been no live exports for slaughter or fattening since 2020 and we want to make this permanent. We will be taking this forward during the remainder of this Parliament.

I thank my noble friend for his Answer. Although almost no animals are being shipped abroad at the moment, this does not mean that the trade cannot be restarted, so I am very glad to hear that the Government will stick to their manifesto commitment. What will the timing be for the Bill? Please can my noble friend assure us that enough time will be given by the Government to get it through before the next general election?

I can assure my noble friend that this is a priority under Our Action Plan for Animal Welfare and that we will bring it forward in this Parliament. We want to make sure that, as she says, we stop the infrastructure that supports this trade. As I say, there have been no cases of animals transported for slaughter or fattening since 2021 and we want to make sure that we make that permanent.

My Lords, when will a suitable border inspection post be up and running in Calais? Can the Minister give a commitment that the ban will be introduced before live animal exports can go through Calais again, because I understand that that has been the barrier to there not being any in the recent past?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right. We are in negotiations with the French authorities, and we want to make sure that there is a good border control post at Coquelles. That will assist us as well with the illegal import of products of animal origin, which are causing us great concern for biosecurity. I cannot give her an exact date, but I feel sure that a post will be created, and that will regularise the trade in both directions.

My Lords, on 3 December 2020, the Government published a consultation on the banning of the live export of animals for slaughter and fattening, and this closed in February 2021. This measure was included in the kept animals Bill that went through the Commons and was killed off in May. Are the Government now relying on a Private Member’s Bill to bring this measure forward?

My Lords, my noble friend has managed to assuage my wrath, for the time being. That is probably very unkind, because in the past I think he has been more the messenger than the author of the non-activity. None the less, can he tell all those involved in this matter that we and all those who are interested in animal welfare will be watching the timetable for this with the eyes of a number of hawks—so he had better deliver?

I sit in awe of my noble friend’s determination, and I want to make sure that there is no wrath in her. I gently remind her that we have a very good record on animal welfare. We have delivered in primary legislation the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act, the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act, the Animals (Penalty Notices) Act, the Ivory Act 2018, which came into force in 2022, as well as measures to crack down on hare coursing—and with her assistance and that of the Government, the Glue Traps (Offences) Act. We will deliver many of the items of the kept animals Bill in a variety of ways, including through Private Members’ Bills, and we will make sure that they are on the statute book soon.

My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that there is no intention to restrict the movement of live racehorses from one meeting to another, which takes place on a considerable scale at the present time?

The passage of elite animals for competition and for breeding is absolutely open, and will continue—it has a very high welfare standard. There are issues about the cost and bureaucracy involved, but that requires both sides of the channel to be in co-operation. It is a very important industry in this country, and we will support it.

My Lords, this was a manifesto promise by the Government years ago, yet for some reason they have consistently put it off—they have announced new powers and then put it off again. It was said that it was Brexit that was stopping it from being enacted. Brexit is done and dusted, so why has it not happened? Either Brexit has not happened, or the Government are just rubbish.

It is certainly not the latter. You have a manifesto commitment, which you deliver over the course of a Parliament—that is what we are going to do. But the noble Baroness can sleep easy, because not one single animal is being exported. There is one vessel, the “Jolene”, which operates out of Ramsgate, which has not exported a single animal for fattening or slaughter. The concern that people have is that animals are going to be exported to other parts of Europe that have lower welfare standards in their slaughterhouses than we do in ours. That is a legitimate concern—and something that the Government want to make sure will not recur.

My Lords, the Minister said he hopes this is going to be a government Bill, so why does he not just bring back the kept animals Bill?

One of the items in the kept animals Bill, on the keeping of primates as pets, is a good example of something we can deliver more quickly than we could in an all-encompassing Bill, and we are going to do that through secondary legislation. We are in consultation with a number of people who will bring forward items through Private Members’ Bills, with the Government’s support. We want to get all of them on the statute book, but I hope that the noble Baroness, like me, is proud of what this Government are doing for animal welfare.

My Lords, will my noble friend give the House an assurance this afternoon that the ban is reciprocal and that we will not be importing live animals from the EU for slaughter and fattening in this country?

There has never been a significant import trade for slaughter or fattening. For example, from 2019 to 2021, only 91 cattle and 14 sheep were imported for slaughter from the mainland EU. A key concern of many of those who opposed live exports was that once they are exported to the EU, we do not know where they are going. We can now make sure that, through the actions of the Animal and Plant Health Agency, we are keeping track of everything, so we want to make sure this ban is in place as soon as possible.

My Lords, I have been listening carefully to the Minister’s reply. He said the legislation will be brought forward in this Parliament, not in this Session of Parliament, so the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, is very wise to keep an eye on what the Minister is up to. Can I help him? I have a suggestion. We can have it in this Session of Parliament; all the Government need to do is to withdraw immediately the Illegal Migration Bill.

I will of course pass on the noble Lord’s words to the business managers, but I totally agree with him that the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, is wise.

My Lords, this was a key element of the kept animals Bill, which has now, sadly, been shelved. The Minister indicated that he intended and hoped that this would be brought forward as government legislation during this Parliament. Can he outline what other elements of the kept animals Bill he will be bringing forward as government legislation during this Parliament?

I certainly can. In addition to the list I gave earlier, we are bringing forward the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill; we have supported the Shark Fins Act and the Animals (Low-Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill; the Animal Welfare (Electronic Collars) (England) Regulations are now on the statute book; and we are supporting other Private Members’ Bills. As I said, some items can be done in secondary legislation, but we want to make sure that, as was listed in Our Action Plan for Animal Welfare and in our manifesto, all items will be on the statute book, but there are a variety of vehicles for delivering them.

My Lords, will the Minister indicate whether this legislation will be in the forthcoming King’s Speech? What discussions have already taken place with devolved Administrations, because there is general UK-wide interest in maintaining animal welfare and safety?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right. The consultation was done in conjunction with the Welsh Government. We are talking to our colleagues in Scotland to make sure that they are with us on this. Of course, in Northern Ireland there is a different circumstance, because long before we left the EU there was a one-island policy on biosecurity. There is, from the animals’ point of view, no difference between moving an animal for slaughter from Fermanagh to Cavan, but there is a big difference in moving an animal across the channel to a completely different animal welfare regime. We want to work closely with our colleagues in Northern Ireland to make sure there is free movement of animals within our biosecurity system.