The new secretary of state for the environment, Steve Barclay has been urged to prioritise a new bill that will ban the live export of animals – after previously showing “enthusiastic support” for the policy.

Campaigners at the RSPCA have welcomed Barclay to his new post at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), which comes just days after plans for an Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill were included in the King’s Speech.

Now, the new Defra secretary has been urged by RSPCA to ensure a new bill is “at the top of his in-tray” and to finally get the long-promised ban over the line.

Kerry Postlewhite, assistant director of campaigns and prevention at the RSPCA, said: “We welcome the new secretary of state to his position, and are committed to working with him to make this a better country for animals to live.

“It is imperative that this UK Government bans the live export of animals – outlawing the long, crowded journeys, mental exhaustion, physical injury, dehydration and stress that are a reality for farm animals on these unnecessary journeys.

“While we were bitterly disappointed when the Kept Animals Bill was dropped, last week’s King’s Speech was a real moment of celebration for our 50-year campaign to end live exports.”

According to the RSPCA, Barclay has previously shown strong support for the need to legislate against the live export of animals.

In 2019, he posted on Twitter (now X), that leaving the European Union would allow live animal exports to be banned, and said his party wanted to “get on with the job of protecting animal welfare once we leave the EU”.

Postlewhite added: “It is great that the new Defra secretary of state has shown such strong and enthusiastic support previously for a ban on live exports.

“While the last export to leave the UK was on December 31, 2020, with no law in place, this could start again at any time, which is why a ban is so crucial and overdue.

More welcomes for Defra secretary

Meanwhile, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) has welcomed new Defra secretary of state, Steve Barclay, into his role following Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle yesterday (Monday, November 13). 

Barclay, MP for North East Cambridgeshire, replaces Therese Coffey, who announced she would be “stepping back from government'”.  

The new secretary of state said he was “delighted” with his new role in a social media post as he pledged to work to support British farming and fishing, back rural communities and protect the environment. 

“As an MP for a rural area, I know how important these issues are to many people up and down our country,” he said.

Working alongside Barclay is Keighley MP, Robbie Moore as parliamentary under secretary of state.

Moore hails from a family of farmers in Lincolnshire, and before his election as MP, he worked as a rural chartered surveyor and farm business consultant.

He has also been a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee throughout his time in parliament.

Commenting on the reshuffle, RABDF chairman Robert Craig said: “Mr. Barclay has entered Defra at a critical time when there are so many changes going on in terms of BPS and the Sustainable Farm Incentive and the drive to net zero.

“I am also delighted to welcome fellow Nuffield Scholar Robbie Moore in his first ministerial role.

“As an organisation, we look forward to working with Mr Barclay and his team to push forward the issues important to British dairy farmers.”