Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill - Second Reading

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:01 pm on 21 February 2024.

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Photo of The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Bishop 5:01, 21 February 2024

My Lords, I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests. It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, and I welcome the Government’s commitment to improving the standards of animal welfare in the UK. I add my thanks to the Minister, as he begins his new role, and to those who have campaigned for so long, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, whose birthday it is today.

I have spoken to farmers and farm vets in Suffolk, and they are clear that the exporting of animals for slaughter is not an acceptable practice, and I fully support the Bill. They raised with me a couple of related points, both of which have been made already, but I will briefly refer to them. First, we must ensure that holding British farmers to high welfare standards does not result in the undercutting of our farmers by cheaply produced imported meat that does not meet the same standards required of UK farmers. I hope the Government are able to provide farmers with the assurances they need on this matter.

Equally, it is important that consumers in Britain can feel confident that the produce they are buying meets the appropriately high standards of animal welfare that we expect of British farmers, regardless of where the meat originated. Producing food in the UK remains a vital role in protecting the food security of the country, which of course is another issue. I support calls from the NFU and others to establish core production standards that apply to agri-food imports, and to establish best practice protocols for transporting animals.

Secondly, one of the key drivers of the desire to export live animals for slaughter—a desire that could easily be reignited—has been the reduction in the number of UK slaughterhouses. As we have heard, this results in longer journeys to slaughterhouses within the UK—not only is this an animal welfare concern but it drives up emissions associated with the transport of livestock. The transport of animals to small and medium-sized abattoirs often has the shortest overall journey lengths, and it is important that we have a sufficient network of abattoirs, particularly small and medium-sized ones, so that our food supply chain can be as humane as possible.

I also add my support for the possibility of an amendment to achieve a simple device for adding new animals to the list.

As a country, we strive to be a world leader in animal welfare standards, and I fully support this legislation and its speedy progress.