Ulster Farmers’ Union deputy president, David Brown, has said that there must be no ban on live animal exports from the UK. The comments follow DEFRA’s call for evidence on controlling live exports for slaughter and improving animal welfare during transport after the UK leaves the EU.
Mr Brown said the Ulster Farmers’ Union has outlined the importance of animal transport to the Northern Ireland livestock industry in recent months.
He added: “The live export of cattle and sheep forms an integral part of the Northern Ireland livestock sector, injecting in excess of £70 million into local farm businesses per year. Over 50,000 cattle and 500,000 sheep are exported live annually 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.”
The Ulster Farmers’ Union has highlighted that welfare during transport is already taken very seriously, both for the reputation and the quality of diverse products in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, implemented the Council Regulation (EB) No1/2005 and the regulations are already operative.
Mr Brown continued:“The Ulster Farmers’ Union believe these regulations already provide stringent and accountable regulation for the welfare of animals during transport. We do not believe there are any issues or deficiencies in the current regulations. It is important that animal welfare regulation is supported by sound science and not perception or assumption. The existing welfare regulations for the transport of animals are supported by science and at this stage we do not believe there is evidence to merit ‘improving’ the existing regulations.
“The main species of farmed animals which are exported live are cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. If there was no competition for these animals from exports, the value of these animals would decline considerably and this would adversely impact farm income.”
According to the Union, price disparities continue to be clearly evident between Northern Ireland and higher value markets in Great Britain, where a better price is paid for livestock.
The deputy president concluded: “It is essential that farmers have access to these markets to avail of better prices. Furthermore, Northern Ireland has an excellent reputation for breeding high quality breeding livestock and these animals have been exported to a wide range of countries across the European Union. The fact that the vast majority of this trade is with the Republic of Ireland and Spain demonstrates how essential it will be post-Brexit to maintain competitive, un-interrupted free trade with the EU.”
Meanwhile, live cattle exports from Northern Ireland could be threatened for other reasons. According to Brian Walker, from the Pedigree Cattle Trust, calf exports could be halted in the very near future if moves are not made to eradicate Bovine TB.
“Other countries will refuse to accept our stock if we do not get to grips with the TB problem. And the clock is ticking,” he said.
Walker believes that TB can be eradicated within the next 10 years.
“This is feasible. But it will take our Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs to introduce new disease testing procedures. Recent weeks have seen the authorities in England introduce a new blood test, which is extremely accurate where both TB and Johne’s Disease are concerned.
“There is also an absolute requirement to tackle the TB problem in wildlife. We know that badgers both harbour the disease and transmit it to cattle.”
Provided steps of this nature are taken, Walker did not rule out the possibility of farmers part-funding the campaign to eradicate TB in cattle in Northern Ireland.