NI farmers call for no ban on live exports

There must be no ban on live exports from the UK, according to the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU).

The comments follow the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA’s) call for evidence on controlling live exports for slaughter and improving animal welfare during transport after the UK leaves the EU.

Commenting on the matter, UFU deputy president David Brown said: “The Ulster Farmers’ Union has outlined the importance of animal transport to the Northern Ireland livestock industry in recent months.

The live export of cattle and sheep forms an integral part of the Northern Ireland livestock sector, injecting in excess of £70 million into local farm businesses per year.

“Over 50,000 cattle and 500,000 sheep are exported live annually for further production or slaughter in other regions of the United Kingdom and to EU Member States such as the Republic of Ireland and Spain,” he added.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has highlighted that welfare during transport is already taken very seriously, both for the reputation and the quality of diverse products in Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland the Welfare of Animals (Transport) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, implemented the Council Regulation (EB) No1/2005 and the regulations are already operative.

Continuing, Brown said: “We do not believe there are any issues or deficiencies in the current regulations. It is important that animal welfare regulation is supported by sound science and not perception or assumption.

The existing welfare regulations for the transport of animals are supported by science and at this stage we do not believe there is evidence to merit ‘improving’ the existing regulations.

The UFU deputy president continues, “The main species for farmed animals which are exported live are cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. If there was no competition for these animals from exports, the value of these animals would decline considerably and this would adversely impact farm income.”

Price disparities continue to be clearly evident between Northern Ireland and higher value markets in Great Britain where a better price is paid for livestock.

The deputy president concluded, noting: “It is essential that farmers have access to these markets to avail of better prices. Furthermore, Northern Ireland has an excellent reputation for breeding high-quality breeding livestock and these animals have been exported to a wide range of countries across the European Union.

The fact that the vast majority of this trade is with the Republic of Ireland and Spain demonstrates how essential it will be post-Brexit to maintain competitive, un-interrupted free trade with the EU.