As some of you will know, live animal transport has been top of my activism agenda for over 35 years. Unfortunately, I have seen, heard and smelled hundreds of thousands of live sentients being exported from the UK to Europe over this time. During 2002-05 I worked with Carla (Lane) and the CIWF investigations unit to take a real in depth review of the live export of British horses to mainland Europe. We undertook live investigation trails into Europe from the UK; it was harrowing work, but was more than worthwhile as it formed part of the basis on which I could confidently write when submitting my responses (regarding live horse transportation) as part of the live export consultation put out by the British government (in 2020). In over 35 years of export investigation work you kind of build up a lot of experience into what goes on; the real side of it; for me, we had the chance to shut down this disgusting business from the UK for once and all; so it was time to do everything we could to do that.
Under currently existing EU legislation, individual member states cannot introduce their own national bans on live transport. Getting out of the politico farce known as the EU, and then implementing its own national ,legal ban on live transport was the only way forward for the UK to take action on this issue. So the UK voted to get out of the EU in 2016, which came as a very big surprise to many; others viewed it as an opportunity to ‘take back some control’; and for live exports, that is exactly what the UK did. The UK officially left the EU on 31 January 2020.
At the end of 2020 the UK Government (through Ministry Defra) put out a very large consultation on the issue of live animal transport. It was basically a case of the industry against the anti’s – or us, campaigning for a ban. The idea was that via the replies to the consultation, the government would review all the input data supplied and act accordingly. Finally, a chance to get it stopped !
I think I am right in saying that there were received 11,395 responses from industry and anti’s to this formal consultation.
87% of respondents agreed that livestock and horse export journeys for slaughter and fattening were unnecessary.The British people, who in the main are very opposed to live animal transport, campaign organisations, including CIWF, the RSPCA, Animal Aid and ourselves at WAV, had their say on something which was NOT being allowed when the UK was an EU member state.
Following the consultation, the government commenced with the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which included (amongst many things ‘animal’) measures to ban live animal exports for slaughter and fattening. It was obvious that the UK was calling for a ban to live animal exports.
So, finally for me and many others, after 30+ years of fighting the fight to get the trade stopped, we saw a positive glimmer of light on the horizon. We were going to get some justice for the hundreds of thousands of suffering live animals which we had seen being exported to Europe over the years from the UK, which we as a member nation had been forced to endure through EU legislation.
January 2023 – The Kept Animals Bill is currently working its way through Parliament to become British law. Even without a ‘formal, legislative ban’, for the last year or so (ie during 2022) we have not seen any livestock exported for slaughter or further fattening from the UK. In the past, England / Wales was regularly used as a ‘land bridge’ by hauliers shipping live animals from Ireland to Europe. Irish animals would cross the Irish Sea from Ireland to ports such as Anglesey (UK West coast) ; where they would then cross England (by road) and head to ports such as Dover or Ramsgate (Kent county) on the SE coast. Here, they would board a specific ferry operated by the exporters (the ‘Joline’) where they would cross the English Channel to ports such as Calais in France. From Calais, animals would then be transported all over Europe for either direct slaughter or for further fattening.
The above CIWF undercover video shows this.
Several people that I have spoken with have expressed their doubts that there will ever be a ban. I completely disagree; but would add that victories are not achieved overnight; and this is one of them. To become formal national law there is a governmental process which all proposed legislation has to work its way through. There is, via the Commons and the House of Lords, scrutiny and yet more scrutiny of what is being proposed. You could say that changes ping pong back and forth between the houses until all are in agreement with what is proposed. This is the current situation for the live exports ban.
But, I have every confidence that it will happen very soon, and we will see legislation in statute before the end of 2023.
I am trying to briefly outline the Bill procedure within Parliament so that you can see how new laws are made. I hope it makes sense !
A bill is a proposed law which is introduced into Parliament. Once a bill has been debated and then approved by each House of Parliament, and has received Royal Assent, it becomes law and is known as an act.
For each session of Parliament the government will have a legislative programme, which is a plan of the bills that it will ask Parliament to consider in that session (the period between elections is divided up into sessions, and each of those sessions usually lasts about a year). Other bills may be passed each session that are not part of the legislative programme. These may for example be emergency bills required to deal with a particular issue that has arisen, or they may be Private Members’ Bills, introduced by a member who is not a part of the government.
If a bill is given a slot in the legislative programme, the department concerned will create a bill team to co-ordinate its preparation and passage through Parliament. This will consist of a bill manager and other officials working on the bill. The other key players in the department will be the officials with lead responsibility for the policies in the bill and the department’s legal advisers.
The policy officials will prepare policy instructions for the departmental lawyers. These instructions will in turn form the basis of instructions to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to draft the bill. Instructions to counsel will set out the background and relevant current law and explain the changes in the law to be brought about by the bill. There will usually be at least two counsel assigned to the bill, and larger bills may well have more drafters. They will analyse the instructions and may have questions that need to be answered before drafting can begin. Once the drafters feel they have a clear idea of the policy, they will send drafts to the relevant departmental lawyers. The lawyers will discuss the drafts with the relevant policy officials and send comments back.
The first draft of a clause or set of clauses for a topic is rarely the final word on that topic, and the process of drafting and commenting on drafts will continue until the drafters and the department are happy that the right result has been achieved by the draft in the clearest possible way.
Although a bill may have a slot in the legislative programme, it cannot be introduced until it has been specifically cleared for introduction by a meeting of PBL Committee.
If PBL Committee is satisfied that the bill is ready and that other legal and procedural issues have been resolved, it will approve its introduction subject to any necessary minor and drafting changes. The committee may also decide whether the bill should start in the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
Some bills are published in draft for consultation before introduction. The bill may then go through a process of pre-legislative scrutiny where it is considered by a Parliamentary committee or committees. The committee will take evidence and make recommendations to the government on the bill. These recommendations, together with the consultation responses from members of the public, may mean that elements of the bill are modified before introduction.
Most bills can begin either in the House of Commons or in the House of Lords. The government will make this decision based on the need to make sure each House has a balanced programme of legislation to consider each session. However, certain bills must start in the Commons, such as a bill whose main aim is the imposition of taxation (the annual Finance bill is an example of this). bills of major constitutional importance also conventionally start in the Commons.
Most bills will need to go through the following stages in each House before becoming law (what is said below applies to either House except where indicated).
This is a purely formal stage, and there is no debate on the bill.
This is a debate on the main principles of the bill, held in the chamber. A government minister will open the debate by setting out the case for the bill and explaining its provisions. The opposition will respond and then other members are free to discuss it. The government will close the debate by responding to the points made. No amendments can be made to the text of the bill at this stage, although members may give an idea of the changes they will be proposing at later stages. At the end of the debate the House will vote on the bill. If the vote is lost by the government, the bill cannot proceed any further, though it is rare for a government bill to be defeated at this stage.
This is a line-by-line consideration of the detail of the bill. In the Commons this process may be carried out by a specially convened committee of MPs (a Public Bill Committee) that reflects the strength of the parties in the House as a whole. Alternatively committee stage may be taken in the chamber (in which case it is called Committee of the Whole House). In the Lords the committee stage will take place in the chamber or a committee room in the Palace of Westminster; either way any peer can participate.
A Public Bill Committee in the Commons can take oral and written evidence on the bill. In either House the committee will decide whether each clause of the bill should remain in it, and will consider any amendments tabled by the government or other members.
The amendments tabled may propose changes to the existing provisions of the bill or may involve adding wholly new material. However, there are limits to what can be added to a particular bill, as the amendments must be sufficiently close to its subject matter when introduced.
Government amendments to bills (in committee or at other stages: see below) may be changes to make sure the bill works as intended, may give effect to new policy or may be concessionary amendments to ease the handling of the bill. Amendments in the last category will respond to points made at an earlier stage or will have been tabled to avoid a government defeat at the stage in question. Unless the amendments are purely technical in their effect, they will need the agreement of PBL Committee before they can be tabled, and substantial changes in policy will need policy clearance too.
In both Houses this stage takes place in the chamber. Only amendments are discussed, so if none are tabled this will be a purely formal stage. As in committee the amendments may change what is in the bill already or may involve new provisions being added.
Report stage is also referred to as Consideration in the Commons.
In the Commons this is another general discussion of the bill which invariably takes place immediately after Report (or, if the EVEL procedures apply, immediately after it has been considered by the Legislative Grand Committee as described above). No amendments are possible. In the Lords, Third Reading will take place on a later day, and tidying up amendments can be tabled.
Both Houses must agree on the text of a bill before it can become an act. This means that if the bill is amended in the second House, it must return to the first House for those amendments to be considered. The first House can reject the amendments, make changes to them or suggest alternatives. A bill may move backwards and forwards between the two Houses a number of times before agreement is reached, so this stage is often called “ping pong”.
The time taken to go through all these stages depends on the length of the bill, how controversial it is and whether it needs to be passed particularly quickly. An emergency bill may be passed in a matter of days, whereas a larger bill may be introduced at the beginning of the session and only passed at the end a year later.
A bill that has been passed by both Houses becomes law once it has been given Royal Assent and this has been signified to Parliament. It will then become an act.
Not quick and not easy.
But if you have the mindset to want and make change, then dip your toes in the pool and go for it. More than anything, I would say that making sure you get all your facts correct on the subject are very important. Educate the public to get them to support your cause rather than go against you. Tenacity and a great coherent team are the way to progress.
When I think back to the 80’s, there were at the start just about a dozen of us who protested outside of a major cross Channel ferry operator who carried live animals to Europe.
Above – how it all started – a dozen of us took our gripes about live animal exports to the major Cross Channel ferry operators.
We were probably a bit disorganised; used to get the finger from the staff, and be laughed at by the company personnel who just told us basically to go away (or something similar). We organised and over time set up a letter writing campaign to the ferry management telling them that when Brits go to Europe on the ferries they operate, the holiday makers do not wish to start their holiday by sharing a car deck with truck loads of animals going to their deaths. We got people to sign and send letters, and one by one, all the major cross Channel ferry operators pulled out of the live export business.
There were masses and masses of events over the years to gain public support for a ban. There were demos en masse at the exporting harbours –