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Challenging live exports through the pandemic and beyond

News Section Icon Published 01/06/2020

An exhausted sheep being transported

The coronavirus pandemic has upended lives across the globe, human and animal alike – and the farm animals involved in live exports are no exception.

Relentless lobbying

Despite the difficult circumstances, we continue fighting for farm animals and are steadfast in our commitment to ban this trade. Throughout the pandemic, we have taken the lead in:

  • Demanding an end to live exports between Member States and non-EU countries, given the increased transit time and risk to drivers, workers, and farm animals during this time. We drafted a letter, supported by 35 other animal organisations, including our friends at Four Paws, Animal Aid and The Humane League, and followed-up few weeks later, reiterating our concerns and the urgent need for action.
  • Organising a letter signed by 42 MEPs calling on the European Commission to act to prevent severe risks to public health, including the possible spread of zoonotic diseases (transmitted from animals to humans) and the danger of persons involved – drivers, vessel crews, animal handlers, veterinarians, border crossing personnel etc. – contracting COVID-19. MEPs asked that the Commission adopts three temporary measures: suspend all exports of live farm animals to non-EU countries by land and by sea; suspend all transport of live farm animals on journeys over 8 hours between Member States; and ensure rapid communication between Chief Veterinary Officers and National Contact Points to help livestock organisers avoid border crossings with long queues or refusal of entry by certain countries.
  • Calling on the European Commission to end the continued export of farm animals to Libya during the current period of armed conflict. Dangers include the possibility of exported animals getting caught in missile fire, and their vessels being seized. Moreover, the Libyan authorities have stated that during the COVID-19 crisis some livestock vessels will have to wait for 14 days of quarantine at anchorage before being able to enter a Libyan port. In spite of these treacherous circumstances, the Member States that export to Libya – Ireland, Spain and Romania – have given no indication to date that they will suspend this trade.

A halt in suffering

According to two recent European Commission reports, exported animals suffer similarly horrific journeys by road and sea. The new reports exposed failures of EU countries to meet standards, including:

  • Widespread non-compliance by exporters with EU animal welfare laws, particularly once the animals leave the EU.
  • Regular failure by Member State authorities to enforce the legislation that is intended to protect animals during long export journeys.

As a result of these findings, we challenged the European Commission calling for an immediate suspension of live exports by sea and road until these problems are resolved.

"The failures of Member States to enforce animal welfare legislation, exposed by the recent Commission reports, contradict directly the European Union’s claim that it has the highest animal welfare standards in the world," says Peter Stevenson, our Chief Scientific Advisor. "As long as live animals are exported under conditions of immense suffering during transport, handling and slaughter, such claims are provoking and unfounded."

Hitting the press

During the COVID-19 crisis, we have been working even harder to raise awareness of the reality of live exports, through media outlets in the UK and beyond, including The Guardian, EU Reporter, The Brussels Times, World Animal News, Euractiv and The Times of Israel.

Join the fight!

Help us stop this cruel and unnecessary trade by supporting our Ban Live Exports: International Awareness Day on 14th June and spreading the word. Please join us to demand #JusticeForCalves and fight for an end to live exports.


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If you have any further questions regarding this, or any other matter, please get in touch with us at We aim to respond to all queries within two working days. However, due to the high volume of correspondence that we receive, it may occasionally take a little longer. Please do bear with us if this is the case. Alternatively, if your query is urgent, you can contact our Supporter Engagement Team on +44 (0)1483 521 953 (lines open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm).