The Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president Victor Chestnutt has challenged the credibility of proposals to ban the live export of livestock from the UK, post Brexit, following a meeting with live exporters this week.
Mr Chestnutt says the economics of livestock production in Northern Ireland would be severely hindered if the ban was imposed and this would have adverse impacts for the environment and rural areas as well.
“Northern Ireland is one of the most productive livestock regions in Europe,” he said. “We have a strong cattle and sheep industry which is highly dependent on live exports to maintain the economic viability of the sector, which in turn, supports the wider rural economy and environment. Five year averages for Northern Ireland show that almost 60,000 cattle and 485,000 sheep are exported live annually to a variety of destinations in Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland and also further afield in continental Europe.
“At this stage the ‘Live Animal Exports Bill’ does not provide specific detail on how the supporting MPs foresee restrictions applying to Northern Ireland, but from our perspective we want to make it clear that any proposal to restrict live exports will be opposed by farmers in this region.”
The UFU says that to date, peer reviewed research studies have demonstrated that where livestock are transported in accordance with existing EU legal requirements, there is no adverse impact on animal welfare or the performance of the animals, so the rationale for these legislative proposals is highly questionable.
The UFU Deputy President added: “We are very much of the opinion that demonstrating high standards of animal welfare is crucial for the facilitation of the live export trade and we believe our exporters are meeting these standards.
“In truth, the MPs and animal welfare lobby behind this legislation would be much better focusing their time on making sure third country imports meet our standards rather than creating a new regulatory environment in the UK which puts our businesses at threat.”