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Live exports from the UK must stop

Sheep looking out of truck

Sheep looking out of truck

Long journeys in the heat of summer and the cold of winter can cause stress from exposure to the elements.

Sheep crowded in

Sheep crowded in

Crowding is common-place, and our investigations have shown sheep struggle to find the space to rest.



Investigations in 2012 followed very young calves on journeys lasting over 60-hours, destined for intensive veal farms.

Sheep in barn

Sheep in barn

Summer 2013: British sheep are taken from pasture and sent to dingy fattening barns in France after an 18-hour journey.

White Cliffs of Dover

White Cliffs of Dover

In October 2013 Compassion took over the White Cliffs of Dover with a projection highlighting this terrible trade.

London march

London march

Hundreds of Compassion supporters take to the streets of London to protest and call for legislative changes that will stop this trade.

In the mid 1990s, over 2.5 million animals were transported live from the UK to be fattened and slaughtered in Europe. By 2010 the numbers of animals exported from Great Britain had dropped to 4000 sheep and no calves.

Since then, the number of live animals exported from the UK, mainly through the port of Ramsgate in Kent and now through Dover, has been on the increase despite the widespread opposition of the local community, the British public and a number of MPs.

In 2011 and 2012, over 130,000 live animals were transported from ports in the South East of England. In addition, there is a substantial export trade in young calves from Northern Ireland to the continent.

Inhumane conditions exposed

In April 2012, Compassion in World Farming’s investigation unit undertook an undercover investigation into the live export trade from the UK. We trailed calves from the UK to Spain, a journey lasting almost 60 hours.

Fortunately, very few calves have been exported live from England since 2012, but those that do get exported are likely to be reared in conditions that would be illegal in the UK. Sheep exported for slaughter often travel in cramped trucks, sometimes with failed water tanks and ventilation systems. Some of these animals may die during their dreadful journey.

Compassion wants to see an end to live exports and to see a maximum journey time across Europe of eight hours to slaughter or for further fattening. We believe that farm animals should be reared and slaughtered as close as possible to the farm where they are born.

We need a change in the law

The Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act (1847) states that all ports must allow the free trade of ‘goods’, including farm animals. So, by law British public ports must allow lorries full of animals to pass through, even if the port authority doesn’t agree with the trade. It’s about time this law was updated so that ports can legally refuse consignments of live, sentient, animals without fear of legal repercussions.

The amendments we’re calling for are not unreasonable. And if the UK does get challenged by the EU the Government should do the right thing and stand up for the animals facing export. The Government should take the case to the European Courts if necessary.

More information

UK live exports timeline

May 2013

Live exports resume from Dover

Live exports return to Dover, following a brief resumption at Ramsgate.
October 2012

Ramsgate port reopens

High court injunction forces Thanet District Council to reopen port of Ramsgate.
26 September 2012

Public meeting in Ipswich

Compassion in World Farming and RSPCA hold public meeting in Ipswich against the trade.
19 September 2012

MV Joline sails from Ipswich for Calais. Journey takes over 15 hours.

December 2011

Over 80,000 animals have left the UK as live exports since the start of the year

June 2011

Public meeting in Ramsgate

Compassion in World Farming takes part in a public meeting in Ramsgate attended by over 200 people who are opposed to the trade.
May 2011

MV Joline switches exports operation to Ramsgate, following damage to the berth at Dover.

December 2010

MV Joline begins exporting animals from Dover to Mainland Europe.

Mid 2000

Live exports reach all time low.


Live exports from the UK reach a peak of 2.5m animals per year.