archive: LIVE EXPORTS DOOMED?
BY DANNY PENMAN
(from the DAILY EXPRESS 22.10.98)
Britain's live animal export trade was dealt a potentially fatal blow yesterday when the Government announced it was revoking the license for one of the country's largest sheep dealers.
The move stunned live animal exporters who warned that it could cripple their industry and reduce the price of lamb.
Animal welfare campaigners gave the Government's announcement a cautious welcome.
Carla Lane, TV scriptwriter and founder of The Protesters, a group which opposes live animal exports, said: "We're pleased that the Government has taken this action but we're still a long way from ending the horrific live animal export trade."
Farmers' Ferry, which was set up earlier in the year by a consortium of farmers to ship animals to Europe for slaughter, warned that the Government's action will cripple their industry.
David Owen, spokesman for the company, said: "Unless somebody else steps into the breach it will not be easy for us to carry on trading."
"It would affect the farmers who use our service. Our industry is in deep depression and it could hit us even further."
The Governments move came after F Machin & Son and its drivers were found guilty of 377 breaches of animal welfare and transport rules. The company is one of the largest sheep exporters in Britain and sends more than 100,000 sheep a year for slaughter on the Continent. Taking Machin out of the trade will send shock-waves through the whole industry.
Elliot Morley, one of the Ministers of Agriculture, said that the move was necessary because of the scale of the company's breaches of the transport rules.
Mr Morley said: "The Government has stated on many occasions that we are determined to enforce animal welfare regulations. We've repeatedly said that we're deadly serious about enforcing the law.
The courts have spoken on this issue. We have not taken these steps lightly or arbitrarily. We are determined to ensure that the highest possible standards of animal welfare are adhered to in this country."
Machin & Son were unavailable for comment.
Animal welfare campaigners fear that F Machin & Son will appeal and get its transport licence back. Farmers are believed to be lobbying hard to keep the live export trade open and campaigners are concerned that they will put irresistible pressure on the Ministry of Agriculture to allow Machin to continue trading.
Carla Lane said: "The Minister Elliot Morley has the best of intentions but we're not convinced that his civil servants share his views. We fear that irresistible pressure is being piled on the civil servants in the background."
"The crucial point for us is how long it will be before this company's licence is actually revoked and he's forced to stop trading. This man has been found guilty on all these charges but for the moment he's still trading."
When Machin's licence is finally revoked it will mark a major victory for the animal welfare lobby which has progressively strangled the live export trade over the past four years.
In 1994 the main cross-channel ferry companies stopped carrying livestock after protests by campaigners. Farmers and livestock dealers then chartered their own ships and planes.
After months of massive protests port after port was closed to the livestock traders. Only Dover now handles live exports. The trade now exports about 450,000 animals a year which represents about only 20 per cent of its peak level achieved in 1993 and 1994.