New legislation introduced in parliament this week will put an end to the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain.

The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill delivers on a Conservative Party commitment to ban the export of live animals including cattle, sheep, and pigs.

The government said animals should only be transported when necessary and, if possible, should not travel long distances to be slaughtered.

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However, live exports in other specific circumstances, for example, for breeding and competitions, will still be allowed.

This is provided animals are transported in line with legal requirements aimed at protecting their welfare.

Defra Secretary Steve Barclay said: “This Bill makes use of post-Brexit freedoms to strengthen these standards by preventing the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, which we know causes animals unnecessary stress and injury.”

The legislation follows a 2020 consultation on ending live animal exports, in which 87% of respondents agreed that livestock should not be exported for slaughter and fattening.

However, some farming groups have frequently warned that any significant regulatory changes to live exports could potentially have a major impact on the UK food supply chain.

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The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) has said that a live export ban could cut off an essential lifeline for sheep producers.

And the Ruminant Health & Welfare (RH&W) group – whose members represent the breadth of the supply chain – said Defra must take responsibility for the impact of the ban on businesses.

The move has, however, been welcomed by animal rights organisations, with Compassion in World Farming calling it a historic moment.

"We urge a speedy passage for this long-awaited measure, to ensure that the export of unweaned calves on journeys often lasting 60 hours or more will finally be banned.

"And that a line will be drawn under the practice of sending sheep on journeys that can last many days, simply to be slaughtered on arrival," the group said.

It comes after New Zealand banned live exports earlier this year and Australia has committed to phasing out exports.

And in April, a Brazilian court banned the export of live cattle from all the country's ports.

The last live export to leave the UK was on December 31, 2020.