It’s important to ban animal exports, not just stop them

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Exported animals often endure horrific conditions in overcrowded vehicles.

So, how are your New Year’s resolutions going? For many of us, resolutions revolve around doing more exercise, saving money, or eating better. About a third of us set them, with people in Edinburgh, Liverpool, and London amongst the most enthusiastic. But how many good intentions have already fallen by the wayside? 

It’s a tradition spanning four millennia since the days of ancient Babylon and was linked to the farming year. For them, the year began in spring with the planting of crops for the year ahead. Resolutions would be about repaying debt and returning borrowed farm implements. 

One of the timeliest resolutions with a farming theme this year is by the UK Government: to ban live animal exports from Scotland, England, and Wales. 

It’s been a long time coming. Decades in fact. And is testimony to what I’ve always believed: that big change in society takes a generation to achieve. Which, as citizen changemakers at local community or national level, we should take as encouragement to keep going with our dreams. To not be put off by immediate barriers and frustrations. 

UK calves in transit for export | Credit: Compassion in World Farming

Thirty years ago, we were amidst popular protests against UK live animal exports, whereby over two million sheep, lambs and calves were sent on horrendously long journeys to other countries for slaughter or fattening. Calves often ended up in veal crates, tiny coffin-like boxes where they could never turn around for their entire life.  

Thirty years on, and the UK Government has introduced a Bill to end live animal exports for slaughter or fattening forever. 

So, how is it going? 

Well, in what I took as a sign of Governmental seriousness, I found myself invited to meet with the Prime Minister’s office to discuss plans for a ban. A further indication came when the proposed ban was quickly introduced into Parliament. 

Cause for Christmas cheer arrived when it passed a crucial hurdle, getting a successful Second Reading with all-party support. 

It prompted newsreader and presenter, Selina Scott to predict in the Daily Mail that “by this time next year, happily, the abhorrent live export trade will have ended”.

The good news is that no animals have been exported from Britain for slaughter or fattening since 2020. But let’s be clear, that’s reason for celebration, not complacency. 

Left to its own devices, this cruel trade could well resume. Taking this opportunity to stop it once and for all is important to the British public. 

Live Transport of Cattle, Turkey-Bulgaria 2017 | Credit: Compassion in World Farming

Evidence of why action is needed is sadly close at hand; a new report reveals the true scale of the trade in the European Union. Some 44 million farmed animals every year endure needlessly long journeys, some lasting weeks at a time. The EU Commission has published proposals for reform, but these are worryingly weak. 

In Britain thirty years on since those nationwide protests, we have political unity on ending live animal exports, a trade that has long blighted British food and farming. We are now within touching distance of consigning it to the history books. Doing so is one resolution well worth seeing through. 


On Monday 15th of January 2024, MPs will debate and vote on the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill. This Bill will ban the live export of animals for fattening or slaughter, from or through Great Britain.

Please email your MP today and ask them to support the Bill.

Thank you

Note: This is a version of an article first published in The Scotsman on Friday 12th January, 2024

Main Image: A lamb lies in the bog, a mass of faecal matter and urine, that has built up in the pens of the live export ship Awassi Express on a voyage from Fremantle to the Middle East in August 2017 | Credit: Supplied by 60 Minutes/Channel Nine.

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