Proposed ban on live animal exports from Ramsgate passes first hurdle in House of Commons

PUBLISHED: 15:51 25 October 2017

Live animal exports

Live animal exports


European Union law has blocked previous attempts to prohibit the controversial trade

A proposed ban on live animal exports from the Port of Ramsgate has successfully passed its first hurdle in House of Commons.

Conservative MP Theresa Villiers, supported by Thanet representatives Sir Roger Gale and Craig Mackinlay, proposed a bill prohibiting the controversial trade to colleagues on Wednesday.

Leaving the European Union and therefore enabling the UK to create its own laws independently from Brussels was championed by some pro-Brexit campaigners, including Mr Mackinlay, as an opportunity to put a permanent stop to the business.

There was widespread outrage when Thanet District Council, which previously refused to accept cargoes of live animals at the port after evidence of animal cruelty in 2012, was forced by a High Court ruling to resume the trade.

Mrs Villiers told MPs that she had been involved in the issue for some 18 years, when she was a member of the European Parliament, but had seen multiple attempts to ban the trade fail.

The Conservative government of 1992 sought to restrict live exports and refuse licenses to export sheep to Spain, but the decision was overturned by the European Court of Justice on the grounds that it would breach EU rules on the freedom of goods.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, she said: “Now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union we have the opportunity to make the decision here, in this house, on whether to allow or prohibit the export of live farmed animals.

“But that will only be the case if we leave the customs union and the single market.

“If we do not, we will remain subject to the restrictions that make such a ban impossible today, and that provides a further important reason to respect the result of the referendum and create a new partnership with our European neighbours outside the customs union and the single market.

“The case for a ban has been made clearly by a wide ranging coalition of animal welfare organisations, including Compassion in World Farming, the RSPCA, the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation and World Horse Welfare.

“The Conservative manifesto states ‘as we leave the European Union, we can take early steps to control the export of live farm animals for slaughter’.

“This bill provides the government with an opportunity to do exactly that, but we need to deal not just with the slaughter trade, but also the export of calves for fattening, which can also lead to serious and unnecessary suffering.

“Nor should we just control the trade, we should end it. Nor should we wait until the UK leaves the EU to take action, we should put a prohibition on live exports on the statue book now to come into effect on exit day, as soon as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

“The time has come to end this inhumane, cruel and unnecessary trade, which has no legitimate part to play in modern farming.”

The bill received unanimous approval from those in the house and progresses to a second reading stage on February 2 next year, where a number of MPs will be able to debate the issue.

However, some pro-EU campaigners in the county have claimed Brexit is “unlikely to be a silver bullet that halts live exports”.

Green Party MEP Keith Taylor warned last month that other member states of the World Trade Organisation, particularly those that profit from live exports, can challenge any proposed UK ban if they see it as a barrier to trade.

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