Environment Secretary Michael Gove has drawn condemnation after appearing to backtrack on a commitment to end the export of live animals for slaughter in a BBC Radio 4 interview on Wednesday (12 September).
Gove had previously expressed support for a ban on the export of live animals for slaughter, launching a six-week consultation in April into a possible ban, stating at the time: “All animals deserve to get the respect and care they deserve at every stage of their lives. This call for evidence begins to deliver on our manifesto commitment which aims to control the export of live animals for slaughter once we leave the European Union.”
Currently, more than 4,000 sheep are exported to the EU every year for slaughter, with EU Single Market rules stopping the UK implementing a ban. Campaigners have long supported a ban and were given succour by Gove following his announcement of a consultation in April, which followed from the Conservative Party’s general election manifesto pledge to restrict the practice.
However, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Gove, who is facing pressure from Scottish farmers on the matter, when pressed on his plans for live animal exports stated that: “I am minded to restrict them yes, and I’m looking at the evidence to see how we can make appropriate, or take appropriate steps.”
He refused to state whether he wanted to introduce a ban, despite indications to the contrary made several months ago, saying: “I’m minded to take every step we can in order to ensure that we restrict animal exports and that we safeguard animal welfare.”
Gove’s performance on the Today programme was met with accusations of backtracking by a number of environmental figures, including Caroline Lucas MP, who made her feelings on the matter explicit in a tweet sent after Gove’s appearance on Radio 4.
Green Party of England and Wales’ Animal Rights spokesperson Keith Taylor added: “Time and again, leading Brexit campaigners like Michael Gove have shown that their promises are hollow. Reneging on the pledge to ban the cruel practice of live exports might not be surprising, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.
“It has become blindingly clear that Gove, Johnson and their Brexiteer colleagues cannot be trusted. Greens will continue fighting alongside campaigners in the UK and across Europe for an immediate end to this barbaric industry."
James West, Senior Policy Manager at livestock charity Compassion in World Farming, told The Independent: “On numerous occasions, Michael Gove has spoken about how the government are considering stopping live exports for slaughter. This morning, when pressed, he repeatedly used the word ‘restrict’. The campaign to stop live exports is one that has run for many years, and an issue people feel very strongly about. It will be a major disappointment to the majority of British citizens if the government abandon their plans.”