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Live export checks failing

RSPCA uncovers regular violations of welfare law.

The RSPCA is calling on the government to follow its own guidance on the export of live farm animals after new information revealed welfare checks apparently not being carried out in line with government commitments.

Nine months ago Animal Welfare Minister David Heath MP changed the welfare checks required to export live animals to the continent. He said every consignment would be checked at loading and a proportion again at the port of departure until the government were entirely satisfied there was no risk to the welfare of animals.

Today, the RSPCA can reveal this is not the case. Despite the ministerial commitment, some animals are not being checked at the point of loading and less than a half of lorries are checked at the port.

“It is completely unacceptable that animals are not being checked at loading despite a ministerial promise to do so and Animal Health continue to only check around one in three lorries at the port. This trade involves living creatures, not tins of beans” said RSPCA deputy CEO John Grounds.

Additional Government information shows that seven non-compliance notices have been issued by the Government in the past year and in September one lorry was prevented from continuing on its journey at the port as it did not comply with the legislation.

In a parliamentary answer the Minister has admitted that the lorry was only stopped as it has not been checked at the point of loading despite a reassurance two days earlier that all shipments of animals were checked at loading.

Grounds continued “It is extremely concerning that our Government cannot provide clear and transparent information about its checks on these animals. If UK and EU legislation continues to be flouted by the exporters, we would expect our Government to step up its inspections and ensure the animals are protected by the laws in place to do so.”

The trade in live farm animals involves sheep and calves being exported for hours or even days, in some cases only to be slaughtered at their destination on the continent. The RSPCA is calling for an end to all live transport and for all meat to be transported ‘on the hook’.

The live export trade resumed from the Port of Dover in May, following two years of operating from Ramsgate. The RSPCA has been calling for both Dover Harbour Board and Animal Health to allow RSPCA Inspectors into the port, as they were in Ramsgate.

“If the government doesn’t have the resources to ensure full monitoring at loading and again at the port, we are offering the support of RSPCA Inspectors. I hope they will accept our offer of assistance in ensuring the welfare of animals,” added John Grounds.


Further Information

David Health MP, Defra Minster has confirmed, following a Parliamentary Question by Dover and Deal MP, Charlie Elphicke, that:

● Between 1 May and 5 September 2013, there have been 46 vehicles carrying animals to the continent. All of these vehicles were inspected by Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) on departure. 18 were subject to additional checks by AHVLA inspectors at the port of exit.

● Between 1 May and 5 September 2013, a total of seven statutory notices have been served by AHVLA for breaches of welfare during transport legislation.

● The vehicle in question (4 September 2013) was not supervised at loading and was therefore subject to an inspection by the AHVLA at Dover port, which identified vehicle approval irregularities and breaches of Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005.


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