Port vet inspection could
mean end of live exports
By Shelley Wright
LIVE exports could become economically unviable following new moves by the government to tighten veterinary inspections at ports, animal welfarists believe.
Elliot Morley, junior farm minister, announced what he called sweeping changes to ensure that the welfare of animals being exported to the continent was protected.
Speaking at the British Veterinary Association congress in Edinburgh, Mr Morley said exporters would, in future, have to pay MAFF to have live export consignments checked, rather than employing their own inspectors as they do now. BVA president Karl Linklater welcomed the decision. "Public interest in this contentious area wholly justifies this move," he said.
Certifying vets would be nominated by government and a clearer specification of exactly how the inspections should be done, including the length of time they should take, would also be produced. Discussions with the veterinary profession about charges were now under way, said Mr Morley.
He made it clear the government did not like the live export trade, but had been forced to accept that it was legal. The new inspection procedures were designed to protect animal welfare and to reassure the public that the job was being done properly and independently.
"I am in no way suggesting that the work being done by veterinarians at present is in some way generally at fault. However, nobody could deny that it is difficult to defend a system under which the exporter of animals for slaughter or further fattening selects his LVI (veterinary inspector), agrees a rate with him, and pays him direct," Mr Morley said.
Peter Stevenson, political director of animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming, was delighted with the announcement. Although CIWF wanted an end to live exports the new rules would at least ensure an end to vets spending just a few minutes "passing a cursory glance over hundreds of sheep", he said. That view was echoed by the RSPCA.
"We hope vets will be told to check each animal individually to make absolutely sure that every one is fit to travel. That would obviously take longer, which we hope will tilt the economic balance making live exports less attractive," said Mr Stevenson.
An NFU spokesman said the union wanted to maintain the live export trade, but in as humane a manner as possible. He believed that moving to independent veterinary inspections, with clear guidelines on procedure, was a good move.
Elliot Morley:Government dislikes live exports but accepts legality.