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Government 'unprepared to press go' on 'evident and ready solutions' to post-Brexit movement of animals between UK and EU

30 September 2021

The Government's lack of urgency to address 'glaring holes' in its post-Brexit provisions for the agri-food and livestock trade has left the UK at a competitive disadvantage, and could cause UK businesses to close. In its new Report, Moving Animals Across Borders, the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee identify an "effective ban" on the export of live animals to the EU for breeding, despite continued imports of livestock from the trading bloc.

There are, the report finds, ready solutions for many of the problems threatening exporters' livelihoods, animal welfare and UK biosecurity, but the Government's low-priority approach to implementation fails to recognise the significance of stakeholders' concerns. Echoing calls made by the cross-party group of MPs in April 2021, the Committee urges the Government to adopt a 'pragmatic' approach in negotiations with the EU, ensuring that border controls are operational at both UK and EU borders no later than March 2022.

Noting the 'significant economic benefits' provided to the UK by the equine industry, the Committee express concern regarding reduced movement of horses between Britain, Ireland, and France. The Report calls for a European-wide agreement on ‘high health status’ horses to allow for their expedited movement.

The Report's recommendations include:

  • The Government must work with the EU to establish BCPs (border control posts) capable of processing live animals as a matter of urgency, thereby allowing renewed exportation of livestock to the EU.
  • The Committee welcome the Government's proposed ban on the export of live animals for slaughter as an important step in improving animal welfare. However, the Report raises concerns about the unintended consequences of such a move, including increasing travel time between farm and slaughter due to scarce provision of specialist domestic abattoirs.
  • The Government must support and bolster a network of small and medium abattoirs spread geographically around the UK. The Report finds a 'direct link' between the Government's current policy of limiting journey times for animals transported to slaughter, and the need for a network of small and medium abattoirs.
  • A European-wide agreement on ‘high health status’ horses to allow for their expedited movement.
  • The Government must investigate the scale and causes of horse smuggling in the as it is thought there are a considerable number of horses are being illicitly moved out of the UK.
  • The creation of an easy to use, digital-by-design equine identification system. This should form the basis of the Government's forthcoming consultation on horse identification.
  • To prevent pet smuggling, the Government must increase prosecution rates, which are proportionately low given the estimated size of the trade and consider the greater use of custodial sentences.
  • The introduction pre-import screening for non-endemic diseases which threaten the UK pet population. A number of non-endemic canine diseases are on the rise in the UK, posing a serious health risk to the UK pet population.
  • Regaining UK access to the EU's Animal Disease Notification System, allowing easier monitoring of animal diseases.

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, said:

“British breeding stock is an important export- one that has shrunk to nothing while the Government drags its heels setting up the border controls the industry needs. Meanwhile, the systems required to identify equines, which already exist within the industry, have been overlooked, allowing an illegal and cruel trade in horse smuggling to flourish. These issues identify glaring holes in the Government's current systems.

"The solutions are evident and ready, but the Government seems unprepared to press go. It must now demonstrate its willingness to accept the scale of the problems, and act with urgency to address the threats to British businesses, animal welfare and biosecurity."

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