UFU disappointed by government announcement on live exports

Thursday, 3 December, 2020

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is disappointed the UK government is going out to public consultation on a plan to ban livestock exports from England and Wales. It has also criticised comments from the DEFRA minister, George Eustice, who claimed animals often 'endure' excessively long journeys that cause distress and injury.

UFU deputy president, William Irvine, said this is not the first time the government has failed to recognise the importance of live exports, suggesting it highlights a lack of knowledge of agriculture. He said any undermining of live exports was a particular threat to Northern Ireland (NI). Last year the UFU and the National Sheep Association wrote a joint letter to UK ministers criticising plans to stop the live export of sheep and restrict transport journeys by requiring farmers to sell stock to local abattoirs after Brexit. Mr Irvine added it is disappointing the UK government quoted two organisations that may not have a balanced view on this issue.

“Live exports are an integral part of Northern Ireland’s livestock sector. Additional controls or changes to regulations are unnecessary and could threaten the industry's stability. The changes will, for now, only affect England and Wales, but we are concerned over the tone ministers are taking and the lack of understanding that underlines. They claim banning live exports will improve animal welfare but that is not the case if existing rules are followed. Ministers are guilty of calling into question animal welfare in the UK, when our farmers meet some of the highest animal welfare and environmental standards in the world,” said Mr Irvine.

Animal welfare is a devolved matter and Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU legislation on animal welfare transport for as long as the NI protocol is in place. However an England and Wales ban would, in the UFU view, set a dangerous precedent. On that basis the UFU will respond to the DEFRA consultation.