Actress Joanna Lumley and television presenter Selina Scott provide some star power for the Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) campaign to put an end to the “horribly cruel” practice of exporting live animals over long distances in cramped, unsanitary conditions, often to countries where animal welfare falls well short of British standards.
Successive British governments have claimed that EU rules prevent them from putting an end to live animal exports for at least fifteen years, with a spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) under Tony Blair’s administration telling the BBC, “We would prefer to see a trade in meat rather than live animals transported for slaughter, but a unilateral ban would be illegal [under EU law].
CIWF argues that, after Brexit, the government will be free to set an example on live animal exports. A petition urging it to do so has already received over 4,000 signatures. If it breaks 10,000, the government will have to issue a formal response; if it breaks 100,000, the petition will be considered for a debate in Parliament by the Backbench Business Committee.
Country Life reports that some 30,000 live animals are exported from Britain every year. According to Selina Scott, “Investigations [into live animal exports] by the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming have shown chronic overcrowding, lack of adequate water and food, excessive heat and cold, lack of ventilation and almost always no qualified veterinary assistance”. Many animals do not survive these journeys, which can last for several days.
EU rules have even allowed for animals to be transported beyond the bloc to the Middle East and North Africa where, CIWF reports, they “leave behind them every shred of legal protection they once received”. This often results in “squalid housing, brutal handling, torturous restraint systems, and slow, painful slaughter”.
Lumley, a CIWF patron, has campaigned against the practice for years, but previous British attempts to prevent animals from being shipped to EU slaughterhouses suspected of cruelty, for example in Spain, have been quashed by the European Court of Justice.
CIWF CEO Philip Lymbery argues that live animal exports are not only inhumane but also unnecessary and damaging to British jobs: “[W]ith refrigerated lorries and ships, meat can be exported freshly,” he said. “We are giving business to Continental abattoirs, so the trade is not just horribly cruel, we’re also sending jobs abroad”.
Isabel Oakeshott, the respected investigative journalist who co-wrote the critically-acclaimed book Farmageddon alongside Lymbery, told Breitbart London that Brexit provides an “incredible opportunity” to put an end to this “very cruel, very marginal trade”.
“We are a nation of animal lovers, and most people who encounter this trade are absolutely repelled by it,” she said. “Live animal exports are economically insignificant, but cause unbelievable suffering – with Brexit, they can be consigned at long last to the dustbin of EU history.”
New Zealand banned the export of live animals for slaughter in 2003 after thousands of sheep died on a ship travelling to Saudi Arabia, causing public outcry.