While the media has reported a mixed response to the animal welfare content of the first Kings Speech since 1951, the inclusion of a ban on live exports represents a significant moment in the history of the UK animal welfare movement.
The Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will deliver on a longstanding Government commitment to end the live exports of animals from Great Britain for slaughter or fattening.
Many animal welfare organisations and individuals have campaigned against the practice for decades. David Bowles, head of public affairs at the RSPCA, said: "This is a historic day for animal welfare. After half a century of campaigning to see an end of live exports, we're incredibly pleased that the UK Government has prioritised this - albeit as the only animal welfare issue taken forward in their programme.
"This King's Speech, the last one before the election, is an acid test of the UK Government's true commitment to animal welfare and we now urge them to make good on this promise, finally get this legislation over the line, and bring in a ban on this cruel and barbaric practice.
"Despite the strength of public feeling, the UK Government has been dragging its feet on bringing in a ban which is why having the importance of this issue recognised in the King's Speech is such a significant moment."
And the British Veterinary Association President Anna Judson said: “Given this is likely to be the last Parliamentary session before a General Election, it’s disappointing that today’s King’s Speech announced so few measurers to tackle the pressing animal welfare issues we know the public care most about.
“Whilst it’s positive to see the existing stop on live animal exports for slaughter will now be made permanent, the Government needs to urgently turn its attention to strengthening rules on animal importation which are exposing the UK to the serious emerging diseases like Brucella canis. In addition, the Government must deliver on its manifesto commitment to close the legal loopholes enabling the import of animals who have been subject to cruel and unnecessary mutilations which are illegal in the UK, like cropping dogs’ ears.
“The proposed Trade Bill is clearly a priority for the UK economy, but we urge the Government to introduce a minimum set of standards for all UK trade deals which will safeguard our high animal welfare standards and prevent the UK market from being flooded with produce farmed under conditions we would never accept in this country.”