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The government must deliver on the Animal Welfare Bill

Lorraine Platt
November 21, 2023

The British public care deeply about animal welfare. This was the case in 2019 when the Conservatives received their largest share of the vote for forty years, and it remains true today. Recent polling commissioned by Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation over the summer found two thirds of voters would feel more positively about a political party if they included a strong commitment to animal protection. In the run up to the next General Election, this is more important than ever.

This is why, as the voice for animal welfare in the Conservative Party, we were delighted when the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill was announced earlier this month in the King’s Speech. This Bill to end live exports for fattening and slaughter has been decades in the making, representing years of parliamentary debates, written questions, and consultations.

It remains one of the most historically debated animal welfare policies in the UK, first raised decades ago by our Patron Janet Fookes (now Baroness Fookes) and subsequently referenced in not one but two Conservative Election Manifestos. It later featured in Defra’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021 and was pledged by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during the Conservative Leadership Contest the following year.

The Conservatives now have a real opportunity to be a world leader in farm animal welfare and take action to end live exports for fattening and slaughter. This is only possible, as Steve Barclay himself argued in 2019, now that the UK has left the EU. By delivering this measure before the next General Election, we can send a powerful message overseas and demonstrate just what is possible for sovereign nations outside of the EU. Ending live exports was touted as a key Brexit bonus, and it is important that we capitalise on the opportunity to set our own world leading standards in animal welfare.

We should not be in any doubt: without legislation, this cruel trade can and will resume Quote

To be clear, the only reason why live exports are not currently taking place is due to insufficient border controls. We should not be in any doubt: without legislation, this cruel trade can and will resume. During export, young calves barely weaned are crowded onto ships where they suffer long journeys without enough food and water. You only need to conduct a quick search online to find investigation after investigation revealing unspeakable conditions animals raised in the UK endure overseas. Because once animals leave our shores, we have no control over how they are reared or slaughtered.

Last week’s announcement falls against the backdrop of a six-month period where several notable pledges to advance the welfare of British farmed animals were discontinued. This included the Kept Animals Bill, the Consultation on introducing mandatory animal welfare labelling for consumers, and the Consultation on cages reform. It is, consequently, critical that the Government restores faith amongst voters – many of whom consider animal welfare a high priority when it comes to casting their vote.

Failing to see this Bill through will almost certainly see animal welfare become a political football in the 2024 General Election and used by Labour in the run-up to polling day. Let us not forget the electoral success in 2019 was built on a Manifesto which unashamedly placed animals and the environment at the forefront of the political agenda.

We hope our new Defra Secretary will seize the brilliant opportunity presented by the King’s Speech last week and take action to secure the passage of the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill. It is crucial for the electorate to see that when Conservatives make pledges, especially on animal welfare, we stand firm in seeing them through.

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Lorraine Platt is the co-founder of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation

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