An Article written by Llyr Powell – Chairman of the Centre for Welsh Studies
Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to intensify protection of animal welfare, like cracking down on the transport of live animals to the continent.
Whilst a ban on live animal exports is not currently possible due to EU free trade rules, a ban could be introduced once the UK leaves the EU.
Live exports of animals has long been an emotive issue for years and in 2007 the UK’s ferry companies stopped accepting livestock. Just one private boat now takes animals from Ramsgate.
Every year over 400,000 live sheep and cattle are exported from the UK mostly for slaughter abroad. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) estimates up to 20,000 live sheep from Wales were exported to Europe in 2017.
A House of Commons briefing report on live animal exports, published last month, showed that 483,859 sheep, 42,515 cattle, 10,615 pigs and 1,198 goats were exported from the UK to EU countries in 2016.
During this period, the UK exported £1.6bn worth of live animals to the EU – England accounted for 82% of this total, with the east of England alone accounting for 64%. Scotland accounted for 8%, followed by Northern Ireland at 5% and Wales at 4%.
The numbers of animals involved has fallen and the trade from Wales remains small in comparison to England: in 2016 it was worth £11.2m to Welsh farmers against £264.9m in England and £30m in Scotland.
Whilst still in the EU, these unethical practises are almost impossible for the UK to withdraw from. Brexit gives us the chance to further our reputation as a world leader in animal rights.