RSPCA challenges government on live export checks
Published:  20 September, 2013

The government has been accused of failing to follow its own guidelines regarding welfare checks on animals for live export.

According to the RSPCA, the changes made to welfare checks by the Animal Welfare Minister David Heath nine months ago are not being carried out. “He said every consignment would be checked at loading, and a proportion again at the port of departure, until the government was entirely satisfied there was no risk to the welfare of animals,” the RSPCA stated.

Some animals are not being checked at the point of loading and less than a half of lorries are checked at the port, it claimed.

RSPCA deputy CEO John Grounds said: “It is completely unacceptable that animals are not being checked at loading despite a ministerial promise to do so and Animal Health continues to only check around one in three lorries at the port. This trade involves living creatures, not tins of beans.”

Furthermore, the RSPCA said government information had shown there were seven non-compliance notices issued by the government in the last year. The charity also said a lorry was prevented from continuing on its journey in September as it did not comply with legislation.

“In a parliamentary answer, the Minister has admitted that the lorry was only stopped as it had not been checked at the point of loading despite a reassurance two days earlier that all shipments of animals were checked at loading,” said Grounds.  

Responding to the RSPCA, the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) told MeatInfo.co.uk: “AHVLA is committed to supervising the loading of all live animal export consignments. In addition, checks may also be make at the port of embarkation.
“A single recent consignment was not inspected at loading due to unexpected staff illness. Given the timing of the consignment’s departure (03:30am) it was not possible to get an alternative inspector to the place of loading prior to the commencement of the journey. As a result, AHVLA implemented its contingency arrangement of undertaking a full inspection of this consignment at the port.”

The RSPCA said it could offer support to the government if a similar issue arose again and hoped it would accept, in order to ensure the welfare of animals. However, its stance on live exports remains unchanged and Grounds said: “The trade in live farm animals involves sheep and calves being exported for hours or even days, in some cases only to be slaughtered at their destination on the continent.

“The RSPCA is calling for an end to all live transport and for all meat to be transported ‘on the hook’.”