NSA urges clarity and progress on exports of breeding animals in light of new legislation

7th December 2023

Following the introduction of the new Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill this week, the National Sheep Association (NSA) is urging the Government not to allow new legislation banning live export of livestock for slaughter to further impede a return to the export of breeding livestock to the EU.

NSA had been expecting a ban on live exports for slaughter and further finishing to be progressed following the withdrawal of the Kept Animals Bill earlier this year. The confirmation of this earlier this week is likely seen as an emotive vote winner as the Government prepares for a general election within the next year.

But as the ability to export stock destined for slaughter has been halted following the UK’s departure from the EU, British farmers have also faced a severe barrier in their ability to export breeding stock with none going over the short straight route to the continent due to the absence of a live animal Border Control Post (BCP) at Calais, France meaning any movements have had to go far further via Scotland, Northern Ireland and through the Republic of Ireland.

NSA is therefore calling on Government and Defra to urgently explore ways to overcome the absence of any live animal facility over the short straights, and to be clear in communications that they are not only continuing to allow the export of live breeding animals, but actively supporting this important trade.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker says: “NSA has accepted that we will no longer see exports of live sheep for slaughter, even though we know a strong case could be made for this to be done in high welfare conditions and with journey times no longer than on British mainland.  We have now had two years where no slaughter lambs have been exported live but the trade in carcasses and cuts has been strong – adding value here and arguably protecting our international reputation.  

“However, we cannot allow this to continue to muddy the water relating to the export of animals destined for breeding and we are concerned that the current noise is doing nothing to build confidence in the investment in live animal facilities at Calais, or in negotiations over those live animal checks being done at new facilities in GB. We have been in a situation for two years now where live breeding animals can enter the UK from the EU but very few are able to go out to meet the strong demand for our high-quality genetics from EU sheep farmers. We also need to prepare for significant potential interest from Ukraine when they start to rebuild their farming sectors and to not have infrastructure in place to support their efforts would be inexcusable” 

Following the loss of the Kept Animals Bill the Government announced a series of further reforms this year related to microchipping, pet theft, farm animal welfare and tackling wildlife crime, as laid out in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare, but updates provided this week further frustrated NSA as no mention of the devastating issue of livestock worrying was made.

Mr Stocker continues: “Following the abandonment of the Kept Animals Bill, the additional powers outlined for livestock worrying to give new powers to the police providing greater protection to livestock from dangerous and out of control dogs have also been left by the wayside. NSA has been committed, for a long time, to curbing the ever-increasing instances of dog attacks on sheep and would call for the Government to commit to action on this matter as soon as possible. If the Government is to claim some of the highest welfare standards for livestock, they must commit to making meaningful action in controlling attacks on these animals also.”