Tuesday, February 9, 1999 Published at 18:02 GMT
MP seeks live export ban
Animal welfare "not applied evenly"
A new attempt to bring to an end live animal exports has been started in Parliament.
The Private Member's Bill has already been heavily criticised by farmers who have been hit hard by the beef ban and plummeting prices for farm produce.
Introducing the measure, the Dover MP told the Commons a recent poll by Compassion in World Farming found 88% of those questioned believed export of live animals should be ended and animals should be slaughtered in the UK and exported as meat.
"I am in complete accord with this view," he said. "Each year over 500,000 animals, mainly lambs and sheep but also pigs, are exported on extremely lengthy journeys of 30 hours and more."
"In hot weather, the heat can be a killer," he told MPs.
Mr Prosser said his bill would require ministers to make proposals to end this "cruel trade".
Later, junior agriculture minister Elliot Morley disclosed outside the House of Commons that relevant government departments were conducting a review of rules for live animal transport.
Mr Morley said: "The government strongly prefers meat exports to live exports. Meat exports mean that processing and value-added work remains in this country.
"But it has been established that the UK has no legal scope to ban exports and any such move would be struck down in the courts.
"Our policy in the circumstances is to ensure the highest possible welfare standards when animals are transported."
Mr Prosser's bill stands no chance of becoming law without government support owing to lack of parliamentary time.
The minister continued: "We can now ban transporters who break the rules on welfare, enforce strict journey times and rest periods, and apply high vehicle standards on longer journeys.
"We are overhauling the pre-export veterinary checks procedure to strengthen the independence of the arrangements and reviewing the rules with a view to making procedural improvements."
He said that while new government regulations had improved the welfare of sheep and lambs exported live, the "enforcement of rules is not applied evenly".
"Once the animals arrive in Dunkirk, or on the Continent, they are outside our control and no matter what agencies we have, we can't control what happens on the other side of the Channel," he said.
Director of the animal export Farmers Ferry company, Terry Bayliss argued that, if the bill succeeded, farmers would be trading with "two arms tied behind their backs".
A spokeswoman for the National Farmers Union also defended live exports, saying that "rigorous standards" for the welfare of the exported animals were strictly enforced.
"As long as they are upheld, all trade routes should be open to British farmers," she said.
Mr Prosser's bill coincides with the launch of a new video by animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming, which contains filmed evidence of live exports to an abattoir near Bari in Italy.
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