23 May 1997

MAFF to review live export rules at once

By Shelley Wright

MAFF has announced an immediate review of the welfare rules for live animal exports.

Junior farm minister, Elliot Morley, said the review was in response to strong public criticism of the effectiveness of current arrangements.

"Accordingly, we have ordered an urgent review of the arrangements for ensuring that animals are rested, fed, watered and cleared as fit prior to export in accordance with the law," he said.

Although accepting that EU law prevented the UK imposing a total ban on live exports, Mr Morley said the government "strongly prefers meat to be exported on the hook rather than on the hoof". Where animals were exported live, the public must have full confidence that the strictest possible welfare rules were being applied.

He also said government would proceed as quickly as possible to implement the new EU animal transport rules, which were meant to come into force on Jan 1 this year.

An NFU spokesman said a review of welfare standards and enforcement should be welcomed as long as any resulting changes were practical and realistic.

Animal welfare group, Compassion in World Farming, hailed the export rule review as a dramatic and positive move away from the former governments determination to support the live export trade.

Peter Stevenson, CIWFs political and legal director, said the groups ultimate aim was to end all live exports. But while the trade continued there were several ways in which the law needed tightening.

Veterinary inspections must be independent he insisted. At the moment local veterinary inspectors (LVIs), who are authorised by MAFF to certify animals for export, are selected and paid for by the exporters. CIWF insists that LVIs should not in any way be dependent on the exporter for income. They should be appointed and paid by MAFF, Mr Stevenson said.

There also had to be new and clear instructions to the LVIs that every animal in an export consignment should be inspected, and how long that should take. That was the only way to ensure that all animals were fit to travel, he said.

"We believe the law at the moment is being flouted fairly regularly," said Mr Stevenson. There had been many allegations of vets giving big loads of livestock just a cursory glance and then signing the export certificates, resulting in unfit animals being sent abroad.

CIWF also wanted proper policing, and detailed record keeping, at lairages to ensure animals got the correct rest period. &#42