This House of Commons Library briefing details the current legislative framework for live animal exports within the EU, and campaigns to change law. It also provides information about issues with animal exports from the ports of Dover and Ramsgate in 2012/13.Jump to full report >>
EU rules to protect live animals during transport and related operations were agreed in 2004, and implemented in the UK in 2007, though there have still been a number of campaigns against such exports on welfare grounds. The UK vote to leave the EU has prompted renewed calls to ban live animal exports.
Live animals are exported to other EU countries from the UK for several different purposes: breeding, fattening, and slaughter. Across the whole of the EU every year, around four million cattle, 28 million pigs, four million sheep, 243 million poultry and 150 thousand horses are transported for more than eight hours within the EU.
The transport and export of live animals within the European Union is regulated by Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport. This sets out a series of measures, including requirements for transporters to be authorised, vehicle and container requirements, limits to time in transit and requirements for authorised rest stops. These rules do not allow unfit animals to travel and set minimum age of travel for different animals. Different rules apply to journeys under and over 65km, and those under and over eight hours.
The Commission reviewed these regulations in 2011. This review found that the regulations had had a positive impact, but acknowledged that severe animal welfare problems persisted. The main concern related to enforcement of the regulations.
In England the Regulation is implemented through the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006, parallel regulations apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) is responsible for carrying out inspections of animals at point of loading and at ports. Trading Standards also has powers to inspect animals during transport, and is responsible for carrying out any prosecutions under the regulations.
There have been a number of campaigns against live animal exports on welfare grounds, and the issue hit the news in 2012-13 when 40 sheep were euthanised on welfare grounds at the Port of Ramsgate. In a court case that followed the High Court ruled that the Port could not ban live animal exports, on the grounds of freedom of movement within the EU and existing UK legislation.
There has been speculation that once the UK leaves the EU, it could ban this trade through amendments to Harbour Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847. In November 2016, the Minister explained that the government has not yet reached a position on the nature of future arrangements concerning live animal exports once we leave the EU.
Commons Briefing papers SN06504
Author: David Hirst