First can I say that I believe we, as a Party and as members of wider society, have a moral duty to treat the animals we share our planet with in a compassionate way, and as a vegetarian for over 20 years and a long-standing animal rights campaigner I am proud that the last Labour Government had a strong record on international animal welfare.
As you may be aware there has been a petition debated in Parliament in relation to banning live exports. Normally petitions need to get 100,000 signatures for a debate to be triggered and this debate did not quite meet the threshold. However, as this is such an important issue and that there is a large awareness about it the Petitions Committee found it right and appropriate to call a debate.
During the debate, it was clear that any change the Government choose to make will have to wait until after we leave to European Union and the UK no longer has to adhere to EU ‘movement of goods’ regulations. You might be aware however that there has been a dramatic reduction in the numbers of live animals exported, especially destined for slaughter. The peak of live exports going from the UK for slaughter was in 1992 when around 400,000 cattle, 300,000 pigs and nearly 1,5 million sheep were exported from the UK directly for slaughter. Now I understand that trade is a much smaller number, with only 3 in 200 calves and 1 in 300 sheep being exported.
Despite that reduction, in 2017, about 21,000 farm animals were exported for fattening and production, and a further 5000 were transported directly for slaughter from Great Britain. It is wrong that animals must endure long periods of travelling to be slaughtered or for further fattening. Some animals may travel for up to 29 hours, which can cause fatigue and aggressiveness.
During the debate, no commitment was made regarding the future of live export and I understand that the Government is ‘looking into the issue of live exports’ and how best to legislate on it. I can assure you that I will continue to push the Government to uphold the best possible animal welfare standards.
If you would like to know more about Labour’s Animal Welfare Manifesto you can view it here.