26 March 1998
Farmers, Government head for showdown
over live sheep exports
SHEEP farmers and the Government are poised for confrontation over live sheep exports.
Junior agriculture minister Elliot Morley, has made no secret of his desire to slow and even halt live exports due to animal welfare concerns.
But a move led by farmers to charter a dedicated livestock ferry is gaining momentum. The National Farmers Union and the National Sheep Association have in the past approached ferry operators like P&O to provide a regular sheep-ferrying service, but to no avail.
The issue is fast coming to a head with the Eid el Kebir Muslim festival being celebrated on 7 April. Muslim communities throughout the world eat freshly killed mutton during the festival.
British animal rights organisations, opposed to the open-air slaughter of hundreds of sheep, are pressing for the suspension of live cross-Channel deliveries in the run-up to the festival. Slaughtering conditions are rumoured to be below par in many countries, including France.
The Ministry of Agriculture sympathises with the animal rights lobby but is powerless under European law to impose a ban.
Morley is concerned about cruelty to the sheep and appealed to farmers to “take account of the risk that their animals may be slaughtered in this way”.
The British Association of Sheep Exporters called the ministrys position an over-reaction and said there was no difference between the handling of the animals purchased for Eid el Kebir than there was for ritual halal slaughter.
- The Scotsman 26/03/98 page 30