The Ulster Farmers’ Union president, Barclay Bell says the Union will carefully consider DEFRA’s call for evidence on controlling the live export of animals for slaughter.
However, they believe the overwhelming view from local farmers is that introducing more controls would be extremely damaging for the cattle and sheep sector in Northern Ireland.
Mr Bell says farmers in Northern Ireland take animal welfare very seriously and the UFU believe the standards complied with are amongst the highest in the world.
He added: “We appreciate why DEFRA is seeking to review animal welfare standards as we move towards leaving the European Union. However, it is important to acknowledge that the existing EU requirements on animal transport are all supported by science which has been stringently reviewed by the European Food Safety Authority. In terms of implementing these rules, it is our understanding that DAERA is very content with animal welfare during transport as long as the European requirements are being met. This is a position we support.”
The UFU president said over 50,000 cattle and 500,000 sheep are exported live from Northern Ireland each year for further production or slaughter in other regions of the United Kingdom and to EU Member States such as the Republic of Ireland and Spain.
Mr Bell continued: “The fact that the vast majority of animals exported go to the Republic of Ireland and Spain demonstrates how reliant Northern Ireland is on competitive and un-interrupted free trade with EU Member States. As long as these animals are being moved in accordance with regulations based on sound science, it is our view that this trade must continue. This is absolutely essential to ensure that there is fair competition for livestock and so that livestock farmers can get the best return for their animals.”
Mr Bell said there has much discussion of late about the food production standards in countries which want to trade with the UK post Brexit.
He concluded: “Farmers are very concerned about the possible threat of products such as hormone treated beef and chlorinated chicken coming onto our shores in the future. While there has quite rightly been much focus on food safety standards, there has not been enough focus on animal welfare, environmental and social standards in these countries. The UK government should prioritise their efforts on ensuring that future trading partners meet UK food production standards, rather than trying to introduce more controls which will make the UK farming industry less competitive and open the door to cheap imports produced to lower standards.”