Stop Live Exports International Awareness Day

This year on Stop Live Exports International Awareness Day, we're readying ourselves for the momentous presentation of one million signatures for action later in September.

Sheep crammed on truck © RSPCA

The shipment of live animals for slaughter and 'further fattening' overseas continues to be legal in the United Kingdom (UK). Every year, thousands of animals are still being shipped from our shores, forced to endure long-distance journeys.

Conditions during transport can be cramped, expose the animals to excessively hot or cold temperatures, or prevent them from receiving adequate access to food and water. The suffering that these animals may have to face is unbelievable. As a country of animal lovers, we can't allow this to continue to happen.

We're marking Stop Live Exports International Awareness Day by reflecting on the past, present and future of our campaign to end this cruel trade.

One million actions

We've been campaigning for an end to the live-export trade for over 20 years now, alongside many other prominent animal welfare charities across Europe.

Until earlier this year, we were gathering signatures for an open letter to the Defra Minister George Eustice, who is responsible for food and farming. We called on him to support an eight hour limit on the transport of live animals towards slaughter, and movement towards a meat-only trade.

We closed our call for signatures shortly before the UK general election, at this point an incredible 34,000 people had signed. With these signatures included, over one million people across Europe have acted to support 'Stop The Trucks' - a truly amazing turnout.

Public support for an end to live exports has been incredible, and some real changes have been seen over the past two decades. When we last surveyed the British public, 66 percent were appalled by live animals being transported long distances for slaughter, and almost seven out of ten believed that animals should only be slaughtered in the country where they've been reared.

Perspective from the port

There's now only one provider shipping live exports from the UK, which is a testament to many years of public outcry for an end to this cruel trade. However, this still means that thousands of animals each year continue to be loaded onto ships leaving from our shores.

The Animal Health Officials who are present at the port are only instructed to check the conditions on one in every three trucks. Our inspectors also attend, and assist the Animal Health Officials by watching out for trucks where they suspect conditions are particularly poor and singling them out for extra checks.

These inspectors have seen first hand the horrific conditions that can result from transporting large numbers of animals over long distances. This includes a particularly tragic day in 2012 - when the conditions on-board one truck were discovered to be so appalling, that forty of the sheep had to be euthanised due to crushing and broken limbs.

Even when conditions on the trucks are kept to a legally acceptable standard, the loaded animals can have a gruelling journey ahead of them.

Looking forward

Stop live transport group outside parliament

This Stop Live Exports International Awareness Day, we're gathering ourselves for the next move. On September 21, representatives from the Stop The Trucks campaign will be taking the one million actions that have been gathered, and presenting them to the European Union (EU) commission.

On behalf of the 27 European charities and one million individuals involved, Stop The Trucks will be asking that an eight hour limit is imposed on all transportation of animals towards slaughter, and that we begin to move towards a meat-only trade.

The eight hour cap will effectively end any live export trade from the UK, even when the application of EU law changes after Brexit - our neighbouring countries will continue to operate under the law, limiting any travel. However we'll continue to campaign for better rulings around the live transport of animals in the UK.

Watch this space

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Read more about the current campaigns we're running and how you can take part.