Defra Secretary Michael Gove may be backing away from a ban on live exports, but MEPs are proving you do not have to leave the EU to take action on this trade, says South East MEP Keith Taylor.
In September last year, senior Vote Leave campaigner and Defra Secretary Michael Gove quietly backed away from his campaign’s promise to ban live animal exports.
I first spotted the Government’s live exports U-turn in the summer when all mentions of a ban, or even restrictions, were dropped from the Prime Minister’s Brexit white paper.
In the most recent months of Brexit shambles, Ministers have had ample opportunity to re-commit to the ban they promised voters. They haven’t.
Live exports are barbaric and unnecessary and cause so much harm and suffering. Greens have long opposed the industry and will continue working for a ban.
The majority of export sailings from the UK depart from Kent, and it is an issue voters in the South East care about deeply.
But while Brexit campaigners tried to exploit the issue during the referendum, I have always been honest with my constituents.
As I explained in a previous Brexit hub article, Brexit was never going to be a silver bullet.
Many of the issues – prime among them being a lack of political will and reluctance to differentiate farmed animals from other ‘goods’ – prevent a live exports ban from existing inside or outside of the EU.
I was also clear that, despite the obstacles, there was an EU route to an effective ban of live animal exports from the UK. I even wrote a whole report about the issue.
I am delighted now to say that, in the European Parliament, we have taken two huge steps closer to a live animal exports ban.
In December last year, MEPs on the Transport and Agriculture Committees voted in favour of my report on the trade.
The report calls for, among other restrictions, a four-hour limit on live transportation for slaughter and an eight-hour time limit on any live animal export.
The report goes further too, demanding a four-hour limit on transporting unweaned calves and an effective ban on exports outside of Europe, where EU animal welfare laws cannot be enforced.
I was pleased and genuinely inspired to see so many MEPs back my proposals to restrict the squalid live exports trade.
It represents an ambitious and cross-party step towards the kind of restrictions for we Greens have been campaigning on for years, in the UK and across Europe.
The EU-wide Stop The Trucks campaign supported by more than 1 million citizens has long been calling for an eight-hour time limit on live exports.
The measure would effectively end the live animal exports trade in the UK – and that’s huge.
At the same time, the approved report would rule out any exports outside of the EU – which is where the most horrific scenes of cruelty are often recorded.
Leave campaigners might have backed away from this issue – after shamelessly exploiting it during the referendum – but MEPs are demonstrating our continued commitment to doing the most good for the most animals across the continent.
This is just the start, though. I will not rest until we have a full and complete ban on this cruel and unnecessary trade.
Keith can be found tweeting at @GreenKeithMEP