A new ban on exporting live animals has come into law today (Monday, May 20) as the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Act received Royal Assent.

The UK government said it is capitalising on post-Brexit freedoms and bolstering the UK’s position as a “world leader in animal welfare standards”.

The legislation bans the export of live animals including cattle, sheep, and pigs for slaughter and fattening from Great Britain.

The act will ensure that animals are slaughtered domestically in high welfare UK slaughterhouses, the UK government said.

Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: “We are proud to have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world.

“Our new act makes use of post-Brexit freedoms to deliver one of our manifesto commitments and strengthen these standards even further by preventing the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening, which we know causes animals unnecessary stress and injury.”

Live exports in other specific circumstances, for example, for breeding and competitions, will still be allowed provided animals are transported in line with legal requirements which protect their welfare, the government said.

‘Gruelling journeys’

Chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (RSPCA), Chris Sherwood, said the act means British animals will no longer be sent on “gruelling journeys” abroad for further fattening.

As well as this, they will be saved from slaughter in cramped and poor conditions with little or no access to food or water, he said.

“After more than 50 years of campaigning, we are absolutely thrilled to see that live export of animals has been banned from Great Britain,” Sherwood said.

“As one of the first countries in the world to abolish this practice, this vital step for animal welfare sends an important message globally and we hope to see other countries follow suit soon.

“This ban marks a huge step forward for animal welfare and further shows that we are a nation of animal lovers – who care for every kind.”

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

Global chief executive at Compassion in World Farming, Philip Lymbery, said: “This is a day to truly celebrate.

“We are delighted that this legislation has passed through both Houses of Parliament with cross party support. And we commend the government on delivering on this hugely important promise.

“This long-awaited law will ensure that Britain will never return to the dark days of exporting up to 2.5 million sheep and calves annually to Europe or beyond for slaughter or fattening.”