The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has welcomed the commitment to end the live exports of some animals outlined in the supplementary notes to the King’s Speech today (Tuesday, November 7).

The background notes to the speech said that the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will end excessively long journeys for slaughter and fattening by banning live export of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses.

The bill will prevent unnecessary long export journeys, instead “using shorter and less stressful journeys”, the speech notes said.

The government also intends that the bill will ensure animals are slaughtered domestically, and will prevent “the export to unknown and likely lower welfare slaughterhouses conditions”.

The proposed bill will still allow animal exports in some circumstances, for example, for breeding or competitions, provided they are transported in line with legal requirements aimed at protecting their welfare.

Commenting on the bill’s inclusion in the King’s Speech, the RSPCA said it was “a historic day” for animal welfare.

David Bowles, head of public affairs for the RSPCA, said: “After half a century of campaigning to see an end of live exports, we’re incredibly pleased that the UK government has prioritised this – albeit as the only animal welfare issue taken forward in their programme.”

“This King’ Speech, the last one before the election, is an acid test of the UK’s government’s true commitment to animal welfare and we now urge them to make good on this promise.

“Despite the strength of public feeling, the UK government has been dragging its feet on brining in a ban, which is why having the importance of this issue recognised in the King’s Speech is such a significant moment,” Bowles added.

The RSPCA claims that the risk of suffering for animals who are transported in long journeys includes mental exhaustion, physical injury, hunger, dehydration, and stress from extremes of heat and cold.

The last live export for slaughter from Great Britain was in late 2020. The RSPCA said that a legislative ban is necessary as live exports “could start again at any time”.