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Delight as live export for slaughter is banned – but loophole concerns

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Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill passed: live export of horses for slaughter ban becomes law
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Exporting horses for slaughter from Britain has been banned in a “defining moment” for animal welfare.

The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill passed its third and final reading in the House of Lords on 14 May and was granted royal assent on Monday (20 May), meaning that it is now law. But worries have been aired over a possible loophole.

World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said the law “ensures that no horse, pony or donkey will legally be exported from Great Britain for slaughter and while this is a monumental step forward, plenty more needs to be achieved to effectively combat the illegal export of equines from the country”.

“This will rely on the new law being effectively enforced and the introduction of full traceability of all equines, and we look forward to working with Defra to achieve this,” said Mr Owers.

Banning the live export of horses for slaughter was a founding purpose of World Horse Welfare, which was formed in 1927 by Ada Cole after she stood on the docks of Antwerp and witnessed the cruel treatment of British work horses being unloaded and taken to slaughter.

The RSPCA has also been campaigning on the issue for more than 50 years.

“This means British animals will no longer be sent on gruelling journeys abroad for further fattening and slaughter in cramped and poor conditions with little or no access to food or water,” said RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood.

“As one of the first countries in the world to abolish this practice, this vital step for animal welfare sends an important message globally and we hope to see other countries follow suit soon.”

Although the new act has been broadly welcomed, concerns were raised during its final reading in the House of Lords (14 May) over a potential loophole.

Baroness Hoey said that although she is “very much in favour of this bill”, she is also concerned that “there is no guarantee that animals from Northern Ireland, which are under no restriction, will not be moved to the Republic of Ireland and then onwards”.

“Yet we are saying that this is wonderful, that we have changed things and that leaving the European Union has allowed us to ban live exports,” she said.

Lord Douglas Miller, Defra parliamentary under-secretary of state, said he is “acutely aware that there are some challenges in certain places” but that it is “probably beyond my remit to address those issues”.

“I have tried extremely hard through both individual engagement and the debates that we have had up to this stage to put the bill in the position that I think we all want it to conclude on, which is one where it will pass,” he said.

“Therefore, I feel sad that I cannot satisfy everybody in this space, but I genuinely believe that we can collectively be proud of this bill, and it does exactly the right thing at this moment in time.”

On 14 May, Mr Owers again stressed that while the passage of this law “is a monumental step forward, plenty more needs to be achieved to effectively combat the illegal export of equines.”

He added that this will “rely on the new law being effectively enforced and the introduction of full traceability of all equines”.

“In the 21st century it is preposterous that equine ID is still based on a paper system, which simply provides an open door for horse smugglers,” he said.

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