UK moves to ban live animal exports for slaughter

The Gulf Livestock 1 disappeared in September.
The Gulf Livestock 1 disappeared in September. Photo credit: Vessel Finder

The United Kingdom is set to ban live animal exports for slaughter, the first country in Europe to do so.

The move comes as the UK aims to strengthen its position as a world leader in animal welfare, the Guardian newspaper reports.

The ban will only apply to the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, and will not affect those exported for breeding purposes, the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said. It will also not apply to the export of poultry.

Northern Ireland will also continue to allow live exports, according to the Guardian

The move comes as pressure builds in New Zealand for the Government to ban the practice of live exports.

"We welcome this landmark move for animal welfare that will prevent suffering on an enormous scale," Ben Pearson, head of campaigns at World Animal Protection New Zealand, said on Friday.

"The British Government recognises that live animal exports are cruel and unnecessary, so we are calling on the New Zealand Government to match this and begin implementing a phase-out of the industry."

New Zealand only allows the live export of animals for breeding, but animal rights groups say it is impossible to know what will happen to animals after they leave our shores.

The practice received increased scrutiny after the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 in September.

The livestock carrier capsized off the coast of Japan after leaving Napier with a crew of 43 and almost 6000 cattle onboard.

Forty of those crew members - including two New Zealanders - remain missing, presumed dead.

Immediately after the sinking, MPI ordered a temporary ban on live cattle exports and ordered an independent review. 

Based on that review, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) introduced a number of extra regulations when exports were allowed to resume.

Another broader review considering whether live cattle exports should be banned outright was undertaken last year but the findings have been held up due to COVID-19.