LONDON – Transport companies exporting live animals from the Port of Ramsgate have been warned to put a stop to unnecessary delays, Jim Paice, Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), said.

In responding to recent unacceptable delays at the port, the UK government has warned exporters in writing of the consequences of not observing the law on animal welfare standards. There will be a new limit on the time taken to load vehicles onto the vessel. This will normally be two hours.

“I want all those involved in the export of live animals to be under no illusion that we take animal welfare very seriously,” Paice said. “It has been brought to my attention that unacceptable delays have occurred at the Port of Ramsgate. I will not tolerate this. The AHVLA [Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency] has today written to the operators involved warning them of the consequences of breaking animal welfare laws and assuring them robust action will be taken.”

Although the live export trade has diminished significantly, from more than two million at the peak of exports in 1992 to around 50,000 a year now, it is not possible for the government to ban it, as this would be contrary to EU trade rules. However, Paice said he will press the European Commission to come forward with proposals to tighten up existing rules and encourage, more sustainable and less stressful journeys.

“I want to see livestock slaughtered as close as possible to where they are farmed so I am pushing Europe for improved rules that reduce the stress that these long journeys cause animals,” Paice said.

He also welcomed the news that updated guidelines are being produced by Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) on the regulatory action they take in relation to welfare in transport rules. These will be published soon.