Live exports in focus

Lambs in countryside. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Lambs in countryside. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The live export of farmed animals has remained firmly in focus in recent weeks following the launch of a ‘call for evidence’ by the DEFRA Minister Michael Gove in relation to animal welfare during live export journeys. This call for evidence will run for the next five weeks and is likely to receive submissions from a wide number of stakeholders.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union will be carefully considering this document but in general our position has not changed nor will it:

“We are keen that Northern Ireland is seen as a region which excels in delivering high animal welfare standards and that policy is driven by sound science. As it stands, we believe the evidence is clear. As long as the existing legal requirements are met and there are safeguards to ensure that the competent authorities monitor compliance levels, there is absolutely no rationale to add additional controls or even consider banning the live export of farmed animals. We want to see our cattle and sheep sector have a sustainable and competitive future. That is one that is profitable, environmentally friendly and which supports our important rural communities. To achieve this, free trade with our European neighbours must be maintained and additional controls prohibiting the live export of farmed animals must not be introduced.”

These were the concluding remarks by the UFU President Barclay Bell in his recent letter to the DEFRA Minister Michael Gove. This letter is just one of a range of actions the UFU has taken to promote the views of our members. The following paragraphs provide a summary of our actions since the debate around live exports commenced in late 2017.

Exporters & Livestock markets

We have met with both these parties to discuss concerns around proposals to ban or introduce additional controls on live exports. All parties agreed that this trade is essential for the Northern Ireland livestock sector and that it must be maintained.

Research

We’ve discussed research conducted on live exports with Teagasc who have confirmed that there is no adverse impact on animal welfare or performance if the animals are transported in accordance with EU requirements.

We’ve liaised with the Scottish government about the project they commissioned with SRUC to assess calf welfare and performance during live export journeys.

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) – The UFU has reviewed the most recent analysis by EFSA on the science around farm animal transportation and which supports the findings made by Teagasc.

Regulators

We’re keeping in close contact with DAERA veterinary division and have written to the DAERA Permanent Secretary to outline the position of the farming industry.

In response DAERA has confirmed that they are very content with animal welfare during live export as long as the animals are transported in accordance with the EU regulations. DAERA also acknowledged the importance of the live export trade for Northern Ireland.

Political

We’ve met all the local political parties to impress the importance of live exports to the Northern Ireland farming industry and the need to defend our industry in Westminster.

In February we supported comments made by the Scottish Minister for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing about the importance of live exports to the farming industry.

We’ve recently written to Minister Gove about the importance of live exports to Northern Ireland – we have requested a meeting to discuss this further.

This was also copied to Neil Parish MP (Chairman of the EFRA committee) and David Simpson MP.

We’ve met with Lord Duncan (Parliamentary Under-secretary to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland).

UK Unions

We’re regularly discussing live exports with the other UK Unions to keep up to date with each other’s positions.

We will be meeting in May to discuss our approach to the DEFRA call for evidence on live exports and to discuss future actions.

Press

We have regularly issued press to highlight the importance of live exports to the Northern Ireland farming industry. This has been supported by radio interviews.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union will continue to be proactive on this matter and would welcome any feedback from its members. Should members wish to have an input they should contact Elliott Bell or Daryl McLaughlin at UFU headquarters on 028 9037 0222.