Advocates for Animals

Making full use of the law to protect animals

Blog: Live Animal Exports

Cow transported in blue truck

This week’s guest writer Maddie Miller discusses live animal exports, involving a complex series of movements and operations which, coupled with the current regulation, has created a welfare risk to the animals.

The export of live animals from the United Kingdom has increased over time, sparking debate and controversy over its regulation. Animals are put in inhumane and cruel circumstances only to reach their destination for slaughter or for fattening.

What are the main problems with the export of animals?

  1. Overcrowding - Large numbers of animals are often confined into small vehicles, with the animals being unable to move. This causes the animals to be extremely stressed and can create injuries.
  2. High Temperatures – Many animals must endure temperatures of over 35C because of bad planning. This is intensified by the animal’s body temperature going up during loading and unloading, and then down during transport. The animals are not used to the change in temperature and young, unweaned animals, in particular, find it difficult to regulate their temperature. They do not have a fully developed immune system and long periods without food worsens this vulnerability.
  3. Dehydration and Exhaustion – The animals are in transit for days and can be without sufficient food, water, or rest. Manually refillable water troughs used in trucks often cannot be replenished by drivers during shortstops.
  4. Diseases – The transport of animals causes the spread of disease across the globe, with 75% of new and emerging infectious diseases in humans coming from animals. This is especially relevant today with the outbreak of COVID-19 thought to have been derived from the animal markets in China. Many diseases are directly attributable to the live transport of animals unfit for travel. Reports have found that animals being transported were heavily pregnant, injured, and have often been found dead on arrival.
  5. Lack of Legal Protection – When animals are exported from Europe to countries outside the EU, they leave behind all the legal protections. This means they can face terrible abuse during transport and at the time of slaughter.
  6. Bad Planning and Lack of Regulation at Ports – Often, there is a lack of planning, with the conditions of the ships not being considered as well as delays at ports.

Most EU countries do not receive any feedback from the country of destination about the condition of the animals on arrival. Nor do they get any information ‘from the transporter, ship’s master or vessel operator’. There is further uncertainty regarding who is legally responsible for the proper care of livestock at different points on their journey – particularly in ports or during sea journeys.

E.g. In November 2019, a ship transporting sheep from Romania keeled over, causing the drowning of more than 14,000 sheep.

How are the animals legally protected currently?

EU Position:

The European position is regulated by the Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005 on the protection of animals during transport. Some of the main points of the regulation are as follows:

  • Arrangements must be made in advance to minimise the length of the journey.
  • Animals must be fit for travel.
  • Water/feed and rest must be provided for the animals.

Farmers have a legal responsibility to ensure their animals are transported safely and in a way that will not cause unnecessary suffering under the EU legislation.

The report on the UK Live Export of Animals can be viewed here which details both the EU and UK regulation.

UK Position:

The UK is bound by the above EU law, which is currently set to remain in force post Brexit.

The UK position is also regulated by the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 with parallel legislation in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is an offence to transport any animal in a way that will likely cause injury or undue suffering. DEFRA commented on the regulations, stating that ‘the rules do not allow unfit animals to travel and sets a minimum age of travel for different animals. Different rules apply to journeys under and over 65km, and those under and over 8 hours.’

Local councils are primarily responsible for the enforcement of transport regulations, including welfare checks on the animals and the suitability of the means of transport. The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), a government body, carries out enforcement checks at borders and markets. Offences can attract fines of up to £5000 and/or 6 months imprisonment.

Current legal case: Scotland and Live Animal Exports

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) has raised a case against the actions of APHA to ban the live export of animals from Scotland. They have claimed that young calves, transported from as young as 2 weeks old, are suffering immensely with more than 12,000 being exported to Spain in 2017.

It has been suggested that on the journeys these young calves are not getting access to the water and feed that is legally required for them. This contravenes the European regulations. CIWF has stated ‘the Scottish Government is acting unlawfully in permitting the exports of unweaned calves on journeys over 8 hours’ (Peter Stevenson, CIWF). The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe has stated that animals should be reared as close as possible to the premises on which they are born and slaughtered as close as possible to the point of production.

CIWF has asked for a judicial review to be carried out in the Court of Session against APHA to help the fight against live animal exports.

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We are grateful to everyone who contributes to the Advocates for Animals blog. Blogs should not be taken as legal advice nor do they necessarily reflect the views of the firm

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