Live exports of farmed animals for slaughter or fattening could soon be banned under the Government’s latest round of animal welfare legislation.
Under the Kept Animals Bill, due to be introduced to Parliament on Tuesday, the UK could become the first European country to ban live exports – a move long called for by animal welfare campaigners.
It is the second piece of legislation to be introduced under the Government’s action plan for animal welfare that was unveiled last month.
Other areas of proposed legislation under the Kept Animals Bill include a ban on keeping primates as pets.
In a statement, the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that the bill would ensure all privately owned primates must be kept to zoo-level standards.
Homes that are unable to meet that standard will be “phased out”, Defra said.
There will also be a crackdown on puppy smuggling by reducing the number of pets that can travel in one shipment, and increasing the minimum age of imported puppies.
The measures will include new restrictions on the import of pregnant dogs, and dogs with mutilations such as cropped ears or tails.
Imports of cats and ferrets will also be subject to the new rules, Defra said.
Zoos will face tougher regulation under the Zoo Licensing Act to boost standards and ensure they are doing more to contribute to conservation.
Also included in the bill will be new powers for police to prosecute those who allow their dogs to worry livestock, with the measures due to be extended to cover llamas, ostriches and game birds.
On May 13, the Government introduced the Animal Sentience Bill, which recognises animals are sentient beings which have feelings such as pleasure, pain and fear.
The action plan for animal welfare, which is intended to help domesticated and wild creatures in the UK and abroad, includes stopping ads in the UK for things such as elephant rides in foreign countries and exploring a ban on foie gras.
The plan is a mixture of new measures, confirmation of manifesto commitments and moves that have been consulted on and will now be introduced, or ones that have been previously attempted.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “The Kept Animals Bill will bring in some of the world’s highest and strongest protections for pets, livestock and kept wild animals.
“As an independent nation outside the EU we are now able to go further than ever on animal welfare.”
Further reforms due to be introduced this year include mandatory microchipping of cats, measures to tackle pet theft, boost farm animal welfare and efforts to tackle wildlife crime.
James Russell, president of the British Veterinary Association, said: “Every day veterinary practices see the devastating consequences of illegal pet smuggling.
“Puppies that have been poorly bred and taken away from their mothers at a very young age often suffer from disease, other health problems, and poor socialisation leading to heartache and financial costs for new owners.
“We welcome changes to the law that will stop criminal gangs abusing pet travel rules for profit.”
Mr Russell also welcomed the proposed ban on importing dogs that have been mutilated through ear or tail cropping.
Owen Sharp, Dogs Trust chief executive, said that charity also particularly welcomed the crack down on puppy smuggling.
“We have seen firsthand the devastating impact of this cruel trade, having rescued over 1.5 thousand illegally imported puppies, who have had the most traumatic start to their young lives and have come into our care in horrific conditions,” he said.
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “This bill marks a crucial milestone in animal welfare as we are set to become the first country in Europe to ban the live export of animals for slaughter and fattening.”
“We are also thrilled to see measures to crack down on the import of puppies – a cruel trade where criminals get rich selling sick and dying puppies to unsuspecting families, which has boomed during lockdown.”
He added: “This is a really important time for animal welfare and, if we get it right, we can make real and lasting changes to the lives of animals here and abroad.”