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Michael Gove pledges to ‘restrict’ live exports at Port of Ramsgate after Brexit

PUBLISHED: 09:41 03 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:27 03 October 2017

Environment secretary Michael Gove. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Environment secretary Michael Gove. Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

The RSPCA welcomed the environment secretary’s comments in a speech at the Conservative conference in Manchester

Leaving the European Union will mean controversial live exports at the Port of Ramsgate will be restricted, Michael Gove has said.

The environment secretary made the pledge at the Conservative party conference earlier this week, off the back of warnings from Green MEP Keith Taylor that Brexit is “unlikely to be the silver bullet” that ends the trade.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has long said leaving the EU would allow greater control over live exports, and Mr Gove echoed those sentiments in his speech in Manchester.

“Outside the European Union’s single market, we can improve animal welfare, supporting more humane methods of farming and restricting the live export of animals,” he said.

“Isn’t that a cause in which we can all believe? The opportunities to show leadership in respect for animal life, in restoring health to our oceans and in farming sustainably, are now all the greater because we’ve decided to be outside the European Union.”

The comments were welcomed by animal welfare charity, the RSPCA, which has campaigned on the issue for more than 20 years.

Head of public affairs David Bowles said: “The campaign to end the live export of animals for slaughter or further fattening purposes is one of the RSPCA’s longest running campaigns, and should be consigned to the past.

“We have worked with other animal welfare organisations, not to mention the relentless campaigning from the public who have been responsible for hundreds of thousands of petition signatures and letters to MPs, to call for an end to the live export of animals for slaughter or further fattening purposes. Brexit gives us this opportunity.

“Along with the toughening of sentences for those convicted of animal cruelty, which was also announced in the environment secretary’s speech, Mr Gove gave his commitment to taking steps to restrict the export of live farm animals for slaughter as we leave the EU.

“However, until a complete end to this trade is brought about, our inspectors will continue to attend the sailings from the Port of Ramsgate where live exports take place in order to monitor any animals that are involved with this trade.”

Mr Taylor added: “Greens support a full ban on cruel and inhumane live animal transportation but, until that happens, any promise to restrict the trade should be welcomed.

“However, during his speech, Gove highlighted only his belief that we can restrict live exports as we leave the EU.

“Crucially, he stopped short of actually promising he would and failed to outline any hint of a policy to put said ‘restrictions’ in place.

“It must be noted that to ‘restrict’ is not to ban. Thanks to the tireless campaigning work of organisations like Compassion in World Farming, the RSPCA, and the Green Party the number of live animals transported from the UK has already been dramatically ‘restricted’ by over 80 per cent from a high of over 2.5 million in the 1990s.

“In 2016, however, there were still 400,000 animals subjected to the barbarous industry.

“In his conference speech, the environment secretary failed to address the difficulties in implementing further restrictions both as an independent member of the World Trade Organisation and during the Brexit transition period in which his government is proposing continued single market membership.

“Both the WTO and the EU Single Market enshrine the free movement of goods - including, perversely, live animals - as a central principle.

“Should Gove put an actual policy forward that successfully navigates these difficulties and restricts live animal exports then Greens would be the first to welcome it - having campaigned against live exports for decades - but we will not give up the fight for an outright ban on live animal exports.”

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