1 March 2002

Ban live exports – – –

vets

By Isabel Davies

THE campaign for a ban on live exports has gained momentum after 3400 vets signed a petition calling for an end to the practice.

Animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) handed over a petition to the government on Tue, Feb 26, signed by about one in three practising UK vets.

The presentation was made by vet Keith Leonard who stars in the BBCs Vets in Practice programme.

The petition demanded the UK government does all it can to ban exports of live farm animals for slaughter or further fattening – a trade worth £31m to the sheep industry in 2000.

CIWF and pressure group Advocates for Animals also published a survey, from pollsters NOP, which found 78% of the public want live exports banned.

Accepting the petition, junior DEFRA minister Elliot Morley said EU law required the free movement of goods, including live animals, between members states. But he made it clear he would like to see fewer sheep exported.

"We should be marketing higher value meat with a clear association of quality, rather than lower value live exports often passed off as local meat, undermining the identity of a quality UK brand," he said.

But Peter Stevenson, CIWF director, challenged the point about free trade: "This is a ludicrous position – animals have been formally recognised as sentient beings by the EU, they are not goods."

Terry Bayliss, chairman of Farmers Ferry, questioned the results of the survey and said it would also be possible to find vets who supported live exports.

"We could do a survey that could find 78% of people or 100% of people in support of live exports. You can make a survey say what it wants," he said.

Rather than lead the way by banning exports, the UK was leading the way by showing how the job should be done, he argued. "Simply stopping the trade from the UK will not stop infringements elsewhere."

But John Thorley, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said the industry had to be cautious because it had to keep public support.

It must acknowledge concern about the export of animals to Muslim festival like Eid-el-Kebir where sheep are killed by having their throat cut while conscious.

"Live exports are fine if we know where those animals are going and we know they are going to be slaughtered in the proper way. The big issue is stock that finds its way to Muslim festivals," he said. "The future lies with making sure whatever we do does not alienate the public." &#42

Vets get vocal…BBCs Keith Leonard (left) hands over the petition.