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.
- Live animal transport: find out about the main concerns and issues
- Compassion’s reports and briefings on live exports and long distance animal transport.
- Read about Compassion in World Farming’s investigation into live exports through Ramsgate.
UK live exports timeline
Live exports resume from DoverLive exports return to Dover, following a brief resumption at Ramsgate.
Ramsgate port reopensHigh court injunction forces Thanet District Council to reopen port of Ramsgate.
Public meeting in IpswichCompassion in World Farming and RSPCA hold public meeting in Ipswich against the trade.
MV Joline sails from Ipswich for Calais. Journey takes over 15 hours.
Over 80,000 animals have left the UK as live exports since the start of the year
Public meeting in RamsgateCompassion in World Farming takes part in a public meeting in Ramsgate attended by over 200 people who are opposed to the trade.
MV Joline switches exports operation to Ramsgate, following damage to the berth at Dover.
MV Joline begins exporting animals from Dover to Mainland Europe.
Live exports reach all time low.
Live exports from the UK reach a peak of 2.5m animals per year.