The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill would prohibit the export of certain live animals for slaughter and fattening from or through England, Wales and Scotland to outside the British Islands. The bill does not apply to Northern Ireland. The terms of the Windsor Framework/Northern Ireland Protocol mean that live animals move freely between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The bill would apply to cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, wild boar, horses and certain other related animals. The bill would not prohibit animals travelling for other purposes, for example for breeding or competition.

Animal welfare organisations have welcomed the bill, stating that long export journeys can cause suffering, injury and distress to animals. Farming bodies support improvements to animal welfare, but have expressed some concerns about local abattoir availability and potential impacts on the UK market.

There have been no exports of live animals for fattening or slaughter since December 2020 because the border control facilities which would be necessary post-Brexit are not in place. The bill would mean exports could not recommence.

Banning live export for fattening and slaughter has been a Conservative manifesto commitment since 2017. The bill reflects provisions on export in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which the government opted not to progress in the 2022–23 session.

The bill had cross-party support in the House of Commons, although concerns were raised about the bill not applying to Northern Ireland. MPs also queried the scope of the bill and whether it was open to challenge under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. Amendments debated at committee stage sought to expand the list of animals included, and to provide regulatory powers to add to the list in future. The bill completed its passage through the House of Commons unamended.

The bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 16 January 2024. Explanatory notes, a delegated powers memorandum and an impact assessment have been published alongside the bill.

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