UK animal welfare minister Elliot Morley has today [Monday] urged for an end to long distance transport of animals for slaughter and much improved enforcement of regulations.

Morley said that while the UK was strongly in favour of exports of meat rather than live exports for slaughter, he was unable to prevent the resumption of live exports of sheep from the UK to the continent.

"We will be scrutinising the route plans sent in by the exporters, confirming the exporters are fit and proper people to undertake the operation, and checking the animals are fit to travel before they leave the country," Morley said. "This trade is allowed under EU rules and I am unable to do any more than apply the rules including those on journey and rest times with vigour.

"The EC are reviewing the current rules and we are pressing them to bring forward proposals without delay so that we can improve on what we have now.

"I would like to see a complete end to the long distance transportation of animals for slaughter. It can't be right that sheep are taken from the UK all the way to southern Europe for slaughter; even with intervening rest periods I am not happy that the welfare of the animals concerned can be guaranteed. This trade also undermines our meat industry and exports British jobs.

"I am also aware that standards of enforcement are not as strong as I would like to see. Therefore I will be pressing the EU to ensure it is easier to identify and take action against those who break the rules.

"I am clear that this must be done at EU level in order for this to be properly effective; the UK cannot move forward alone and, even if we could, it would leave the door open for others to take our markets."