The live export trade is the commercial transport of farmed animals between countries. Usually these animals are exported to be slaughtered in Europe or North Africa, but male calves may also be exported to be “fattened up” in the destination country.
The long-distance transport of live animals to Europe is a serious animal welfare problem. Animals are made to travel long journeys in cramped conditions with insufficient water and food supplies and uncontrolled temperatures. Older animals often give birth in lorries, while other animals suffer injuries and may even die before reaching their destination.
While the UK Government has previously expressed an interest to ban live exports upon the UK’s departure from the EU, the Scottish Government continues to oppose a UK-wide ban on live exports of animals for slaughter or fattening. We’re campaigning to stop them opposing a ban on such a cruel trade.
Are many animals exported from Scotland?
In 2019, 26,721 farmed animals were exported from Scotland across Europe.
These numbers include the 2,082 calves discarded by the dairy industry that were exported to Spain for ‘fattening’ and 1,805 pigs exported for breeding on journeys lasting up to 135 hours.
The majority of farmed animals (10,881) were exported to the Republic of Ireland, with 10,743 sheep being exported for ‘fattening’, breeding and slaughter.
In 2019, more than 3,000 less animals were exported than in 2018.
What are the welfare concerns?
The live export trade inflicts considerable suffering on farmed animals and the welfare issues include:
There is no maximum duration of journey limit, which means that journeys may be excessively long. Scientific and veterinary evidence shows that long journeys impose stress on animals, especially when they are young.
This failure to restrict the length of journeys inflicts prolonged suffering onto these animals, who are forced to live in an unnatural and highly stressful environment.
With animals crammed into vehicles during summer months, it is no surprise that heat stress is one of the most common welfare issues onboard live export ships. In a particularly horrifying recollection, former veterinarian upon live export ships, Lynn Simpson, describes sheep onboard the ships cooking from the inside, with their “fat melted and like a translucent jelly”.
Starvation & dehydration
Animals may be in transit for days without adequate access to food and water.Indeed, Compassion in World Farming have launched judicial review proceedings against the Scottish Government after it was discovered that unweaned calves were exported on journeys longer than eight hours, without adequate access to food and water.
Animals are transported all year round, in very hot and freezing temperatures and so disease is rife.
Unweaned calves are particularly susceptible to infection and illness, as like human infants, their immune systems and undeveloped. They are also unable to regulate their own temperature well, leaving them particularly vulnerable to heat and cold stress.
Cramped & inadequate conditions
Animals are crammed into vehicles so tightly, that many become injured or may even be trampled to death.
In 2019, the Kent Action Against Live Exports (KAALE), were concerned that the slats on a live exports lorry were closed and contacted Animal Health to inspect. Animal Health discovered that there was insufficient headroom for the calves and that the animals were suffering as a result. This hadn’t been noticed during the supervised loading of the calves and they may have travelled for many hours before it was spotted.
With long journey durations and large numbers of animals aboard live export ships, the live export trade has been the subject of large-scale disasters.
Last year, a live export ship travelling from Romania to Saudi Arabia capsized, resulting in the deaths of more than 14,000 sheep. Originally, the number of deaths was reported as 14, 420, but upon inspection of the ship during a recovery mission, secret decks housing many more sheep were discovered. While the majority of sheep died by drowning, around 70 died from their injuries following their rescue by animal welfare charity, Four Paws.
In 2017 in another horrifying disaster, 2,400 sheep died from heat stress onboard a live export ship travelling from Australia to the Middle East. Whistlblowers filmed footage that can be viewed here, but we warn that it may be a distressing watch to some.
It’s time to #BanLiveExports
“It’s simply a cruel, shameful chapter of our country that belongs in the dark ages.” Former senior veterinarian aboard live export ships Lynn Simpson, 2019
We’re hugely disappointed that the Scottish Government is supporting such a cruel, inhumane and unnecessary practice. That’s why we’re asking the Scottish Government not to oppose a live export ban. Take action now and email Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing MSP, and ask him to rethink his outdated approach to a ban on live exports.