Moving animals across borders Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Moving pets

1.The Committee sees the introduction of this new regulation as an important step in preventing pet smuggling and is pleased the Government has acted on our recommendation. (Paragraph 9)

2.We welcome the Government’s commitment to ban the import of pets younger than six-months-old, heavily pregnant pets, and pets that have been subject to poor animal welfare practices. We recognise the argument that ministers should be able to adapt regulations as science and intelligence evolve. However, we see no future where the movement of young animals, heavily pregnant animals or the import of animals which have been subject to poor welfare practices is acceptable. The need to prevent pet smuggling is serious and urgent, introducing these bans through later secondary legislation will only create further delays, enabling this illicit trade to continue. (Paragraph 13)

3.The Bill should maintain the flexibility to allow ministers to adapt to future science and intelligence, but Defra should include a ban on animals younger than six months, heavily pregnant animals, and animals which have been subject to poor welfare practices on the face of the Bill, rather than secondary legislation. It should include a clear definition of ‘heavily pregnant’. Putting these prohibitions in primary legislation would be a serious and sincere statement about the value the Government attaches to animal welfare. (Paragraph 13)

4.Currently pet smuggling is viewed as a low-risk and high reward crime. The UK must improve its deterrents against pet smuggling. (Paragraph 23)

5.The Government should increase the sentences given to pet smugglers, including greater consideration of custodial sentences. Increasing prosecution rates must also be a priority, as prosecution rates are proportionately low given the estimated size of the trade. The Government should make use of its full suite of investigatory and enforcement powers to pursue the money generated from pet smuggling. (Paragraph 23)

6.It is the carriers not APHA staff who carry out most checks on pets at the border. Therefore, Defra should ensure that there is a legal obligation for the individual checking the animal to “visualise” the animal, making sure it matches the paperwork and microchip presented. (Paragraph 24)

7.Moving the responsibility for checking pets at the border from carriers to a Government Agency will prevent the conflict of interests that is inherent within carriers checking the pets of their customers. (Paragraph 25)

8.The responsibility for checking pets at the border should be shifted from carriers to a Government Agency like APHA or Border Force to ensure smuggling is dealt with effectively. (Paragraph 25)

9.Within Defra’s policies there is an increasing focus on the prevention of pet smuggling. However, this increased policy focus has not been matched by an increased prioritisation of the issue or increased funding within Border Force or APHA. Furthermore, we note above the need for responsibility for checking pets at borders to move from the carriers to Government agencies. (Paragraph 26)

10.Whichever of Border Force or APHA takes responsibility for checking pets must be properly resourced, and the Department should set out what steps it is taking within Government to ensure that this work is appropriately prioritised and resourced. (Paragraph 26)

11.It is unclear whether travellers have understood the requirements of the new pet travel regulation. There is a risk that as travellers wishing to take their pets abroad will be sent home at the border. (Paragraph 30)

12.Defra should continue its efforts to ensure travellers understand the new pet travel regulations. The current reduction in travel provides an opportunity to ensure no pet owner is turned back home at the border once travel increases. (Paragraph 30)

13.Regaining ‘part 1 listed’ under the EU’s Pet Travel Scheme will make taking pets to the EU and Northern Ireland easier and less costly. (Paragraph 33)

14.The Government should engage with the EU and adopt a pragmatic stance in the pursuit of either ‘Part 1 listed’ status in the EU Pet Travel Scheme’, or an arrangement which is as close to ‘Part 1’ status as is possible within the current political context environment. (Paragraph 33)

15.A number of non-endemic canine diseases are on the rise in the UK. These pose a serious health risk to the UK pet population. There is a particular risk from street animals being rehomed in the UK and dogs which have been smuggled in. Leaving the EU gives the UK an opportunity to introduce regulations that will provide increased protection for animal health and biosecurity, the Government should act on this opportunity. (Paragraph 40)

16.The Government should introduce pre-import screening for non-endemic diseases which threaten the UK pet population. This should be accompanied by the reinstalment of the UK’s tick and tapeworm treatment requirements that existed before the UK joined PETS. The UK should also introduce the rabies titre test as a way of ensuring animals have valid rabies vaccinations and the animal’s paperwork has not been forged. The UK’s biosecurity is being threatened now and these changes need to brought in as soon as possible. (Paragraph 40)

Moving horses

17.Britain is a leading player in the global equestrian market, which provides significant economic benefits to the UK. The Government must enable the expedited movement of ‘high health status’ horses across Europe to protect this industry. An agreement on high health status horses would benefit all parties involved and has been advocated by the British, Irish and French racing and breeding industries to the highest levels of the European Commission. (Paragraph 50)

18.The Government should work with the EU to formulate an agreement on ‘high health status’ horses as quickly as possible. This agreement should be based on a system which is digital by design and easy to use. The Government should adopt a pragmatic and practical stance in pursuit of this goal. (Paragraph 50)

19.We have been told that there are horses being illicitly moved across Britain’s borders and being sent to slaughter under the guise of being sold for other purposes. (Paragraph 55)

20.Defra should investigate non-compliant horse movements and quantify the scale and causes of the practice. This work should take place in collaboration with industry groups like World Horse Welfare who have developed intelligence and expertise on horse smuggling. Once the scale of the issue has been identified, Defra should set out a plan to address it within a year, and no later. (Paragraph 55)

21.The current system of equine ID is not fit for purpose. Its outdated and fragmented paper systems enable fraud. A digital identification system would help to prevent horse smuggling and enable the expedited movement of ‘high health status’ horses. The mandatory microchipping of equines facilitates a digital identification system, which we believe is available at the moment. Defra should move to this system as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 63)

22.The proposals put forward in Defra’s upcoming equine identification consultation should be digital by design and easy to use, except in exceptional circumstances, such as the studbook network which is vital for the support of native, rare and indigenous breeds. It is our understanding that these systems already exist within the industry. The Government should embrace these systems or guarantee interoperability with them. Alongside this new identification system Defra should develop a funded action plan to enforce the identification rules. The consultation should be published within the next three months and the action plan should be published within three months of the consultation’s conclusion. (Paragraph 63)

Moving livestock

23.The current lack of border control posts approved to process live animal exports in European ports is an effective ban on the export of British livestock to mainland Europe. The Government’s strategy of incentivising the construction of border control posts by providing information on the value of the sector has not been successful. (Paragraph 74)

24.The Government must work more closely with the EU and commercial partners to ensure that border control posts capable of processing livestock are built immediately in Northern European ports. (Paragraph 74)

25.The Government must ensure border control posts capable of processing live animals are operational by March 2022. This date is an absolute deadline rather than a target. These posts should be geographically spread around the country and provide appropriate capacity to meet market demand to prevent overly long journey times which endanger animal welfare. Defra should publish information relating to the location and capacity of specific border control posts by December 2021 to allow businesses to prepare for the March 2022 deadline. (Paragraph 75)

26.British breeding stock is an important export. We are concerned that the ban on export for slaughter and fattening has been interpreted as a ban on the export of all live animals, which may have led to EU partners not prioritising suitable border posts. This could damage the export of British breeding stock. (Paragraph 76)

27.Within a month of this report’s publication Defra should provide a clear statement of support for the ongoing export of British breeding stock, emphasizing that these exports will not be affected by the ban on export for slaughter and fattening. (Paragraph 76)

28.The movement of agricultural animals between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a practice that has existed for generations, has been disrupted by the Northern Ireland Protocol. The residency, scrapie and ear tagging requirements risk jeopardising the genetic integrity of Northern Irish breeding stock. Although it is a small number of farm businesses that are affected, these are often small, independent, family run business and the impact of the restrictions could be catastrophic. (Paragraph 87)

29.The Committee welcomes the agreement between the Government and the Commission on residency requirements and ear tagging. (Paragraph 88)

30.However, the Government should monitor the implementation of the new systems to make sure they are fit for purpose and fully enable the movement of livestock from Great Britain into Northern Ireland. It should review these arrangements within 12 months of their implementation and report back to this committee. (Paragraph 88)

31.Furthermore, we welcome that the Government is working on a solution to the scrapie requirements, but a solution must be found immediately. (Paragraph 89)

32.The Government should work with the EU to agree a derogation from the scrapie monitoring system, as quickly as possible. This derogation should provide adequate time for farmers to join the system. The Government should adopt a pragmatic and practical stance in pursuit of this goal. (Paragraph 89)

33.In the short-term Defra should extend the Movement Assistance Scheme to pay for scrapie testing. The new breeding season for sheep is about to start meaning the Government needs to find an immediate solution to allow breeding stock from Great Britain to enter into Northern Ireland. As such, the Movement Assistance Scheme should be extended for this purpose by October 2021. (Paragraph 90)

34.We welcome the ban on export for slaughter and fattening as an important step in protecting animal welfare. We understand that the number of animal movements this ban will affect is small, however, we are concerned that there may be unintended consequences. Particularly, that it may create longer journeys, which may increase costs for some UK farms and could have the unintended effect of worsening animal welfare. We are also concerned that this will prohibit the movement of livestock for breeding purposes. (Paragraph 108)

35.Defra should work with the organisations and businesses that will be affected by the ban on export for slaughter to ensure that the ban is introduced in a pragmatic way that will not adversely affect rural businesses or animal welfare. (Paragraph 108)

36.Supporting and bolstering the UK abattoirs network will benefit our food security and protect animal welfare. There is a direct link between the Government’s current policy of limiting journey times between the farm and abattoirs, and the need for a network of small and medium abattoirs spread geographically around the UK. Equally, small abattoirs must be commercially viable businesses, capable of supporting themselves. (Paragraph 109)

37.Defra should take action to protect small and medium abattoirs as a national strategic asset. These businesses should be supported and bolstered through the Future Farming Resilience Fund. Defra should set out and enact its approach to funding the UK abattoirs network as a strategic national asset within six months. (Paragraph 109)

38.Heavy handed regulations can overburden small and medium abattoirs, preventing them from being successful commercial enterprises. (Paragraph 110)

39.Defra should establish a small working group to assess how effectively and fairly regulations are being applied in small and medium abattoirs. This group should ensure regulations are sensible and maintain food hygiene standards without overloading businesses. This group should be established by December 2021. (Paragraph 110)

40.The Government’s proposals on ‘Improvements to animal welfare in Transport’ are well-meaning but flawed. They show a lack of understanding in how parts of the agricultural economy work and would have benefited from better co-design and consultation. (Paragraph 111)

41.We welcome that Defra is rethinking its proposals. Defra should ensure they work with the industry to develop its new proposals, making sure they protect animal welfare while being practical and realistic. It should publish the updated proposals by December 2021. (Paragraph 111)


42.Diseases do not recognise borders. Enhancing biosecurity protects animal, plant and human health. Although we have full faith in the Chief Veterinary Officer, it would be easier to monitor animal diseases in our closest neighbours if the UK regained access to the Animal Disease Notification System. ADNS is a quick and reliable system, and it would help to remove the opportunity for human error. Regaining access to the ADNS would also benefit our European neighbours as it would allow them to better monitor disease in the UK. This is a win, win situation. Failing to regain access could have catastrophic consequences for UK biosecurity, so (Paragraph 117)

43.The Government should work with the EU to regain Britain’s access to the ADNS as a matter of urgency Defra should update this committee on its efforts . (Paragraph 117)

44.There is disagreement between Defra, the veterinary sector, and the Chief Veterinary Officer about whether there are enough veterinarians to carry out the increase in certification work which is required following the transition period. (Paragraph 123)

45.Government should closely monitor veterinary capacity alongside projections of six-month demand and publish statistics on a quarterly basis. (Paragraph 123)

Published: 30 September 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement