CiWF plans live export protest

Animal welfare activists will send a “clear message” to the environment secretary David Heath about live exports, by hosting a peaceful march through London at the weekend.

Compassion in World Farming (CiWF) has said the protest, which is to be held on 10 August, is to highlight the largely “hidden” trade of live exports. It said more than 10,000 live sheep and calves had been exported through the port of Dover, which was reopened in May following animal welfare concerns.

Philip Lymbery, CiWF CEO, said marching through London would ensure the supporters’ message on action to end live exports was clear. “This government has used European legislation as an excuse not to end the cruel and unpopular export of live animals to an uncertain fate on the continent. Defra has said it would prefer to see animals slaughtered as near as possible to where they are reared, so now we need to see some action, not more excuses.”

Live animals are exported from the UK across the Channel to France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium, CiWF said. Over 47,000 sheep and calves made that journey last year. According to CiWF, animals should be slaughtered or fattened as close as possible to where they are born and long-distance transport “can have a terrible effect on their [animal] welfare”.

Amend the 160-year-old law

A 160-year-old law, the Harbours, Docks, Piers Clauses Act 1847 states that public ports in Britain are not allowed to refuse live animals for export. However, CiWF has stated that UK law should acknowledge that animals have been recognised as “sentient beings under EU law since 1999”. It demanded: “A different set of rules and regulations should apply to sentient creatures.”

According to CiWF, Heath has the power to amend the Act to improve the welfare of animals. It said the law would not be broken if the Act were changed, but powers would be given to UK ports to let them refuse live exports. “Ultimately, giving local authorities the power to refuse live exports could end the trade,” CiWF claimed.

However, a Defra spokesperson told MeatInfo.co.uk: “Using any UK law to ban live animal exports would be illegal under EU free trade rules. We inspect all livestock at the start of the journey and they are checked at the port to ensure our strict animal welfare standards are upheld.”

Protests at Dover

CiWF further expressed disappointment that live exports from Dover had resumed and said it signalled the revival of a “cruel and unpopular” trade.

However, it commended organisations such as the RSPCA for fighting against live exports and particularly the demonstration it held on 3 August.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant told the press before that demonstration: “This trade has no place in a modern, civilised compassionate society like Britain and it really must stop. This is part of your community and the people of Dover must stand up and speak out – because the animals cannot do it for themselves.”