It’s Ban Live Exports Day, a day of action where communities across the world call on governments to put an end to the cruel live export trade.

The live export trade is the commercial transport of farmed animals between countries. Usually, these animals are exported from the UK to be slaughtered in Europe or North Africa,. but The global trade is much wider than this, and outside the UK, male calves may also be exported to be “fattened up” in the destination country.

Together with organisations like Compassion in World Farming, OneKind is using this day of action to create a social media storm to put pressure on the UK government to finally ban live exports to and from Great Britain.

Why is today important?

This is a crucial time for us to push for a GBUK-wide ban on live exports as soon as possible. Just last June, the UK Government introduced the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill to parliament, which introduces a ban on the live export of farmed animals for fattening or slaughter, from or through Great Britain.

This follows years of campaigning by organisations including OneKind for a ban. The 2020 Ban Live Exports Day saw 3,100 of us tweeting the Scottish Government about their failure to protect animals from live exports, and the campaign was picked up by Deborah Meaden and Peter Egan. Read more about our other campaign work on the issue here.

But our work isn’t over as the bill has stalled in Parliament. That’s why this day of action is so important – it will put pressure on the UK government to urgently pass the bill.

The animals subject to the live exports trade can’t wait any longer. Every day, new individuals undergo prolonged suffering in cramped lorries and in some cases, won’t survive the journey.

They are made to travel long distances in crowded conditions with insufficient water and food supplies and uncontrolled temperatures. Older animals sometimes give birth in lorries, while other animals suffer injuries and die before reaching their destination.

Are many animals exported from Scotland?

Sheep - live export

In 2019, 26,721 farmed animals were exported from Scotland across Europe.

These numbers include 2,082 calves that were discarded by the dairy industry that were exported to Spain for ‘fattening’ and 1,805 pigs exported for breeding on journeys lasting up to 135 hours. The Scottish government has since banned the export of live calves.

The majority of farmed animals (10,881) were exported to the Republic of Ireland, with 10,743 sheep being exported for ‘fattening’, breeding and slaughter.

In 2019, more than 3,000 less animals were exported than in 2018.

What are the welfare concerns?

The live export trade inflicts considerable suffering on farmed animals and the welfare issues include:

Long journeys

There is no maximum duration of journey limit, which means that journeys may be excessively long. Scientific and veterinary evidence shows that long journeys impose stress on animals, especially when they are young.

This failure to restrict the length of journeys inflicts prolonged suffering onto these animals, who are forced to live in an unnatural and highly stressful environment.


With animals crammed into vehicles during summer months, it is no surprise that heat stress is one of the most common welfare issues onboard live export ships. In a particularly horrifying recollection from Australia, former veterinarian upon live export ships, Lynn Simpson, describes sheep onboard the ships cooking from the inside, with their “fat melted and like a translucent jelly”.

Starvation & dehydration

Animals may be in transit for days without adequate access to food and water. Indeed, Compassion in World Farming launched judicial review proceedings against the Scottish Government after it was discovered that unweaned calves were exported on journeys longer than eight hours, without adequate access to food and water. Following the legal proceedings, the Scottish Government ceased to export live calves.


Animals are transported all year round, in very hot and freezing temperatures and so disease is rife.

Cramped & inadequate conditions

Animals are crammed into vehicles so tightly, that many become injured or may even be trampled to death.

In 2019, the Kent Action Against Live Exports (KAALE), were concerned that the slats on a live exports lorry were closed and contacted Animal Health to inspect. Animal Health discovered that there was insufficient headroom for the calves and that the animals were suffering as a result. This hadn’t been noticed during the supervised loading of the calves and they may have travelled for many hours before it was spotted.


With long journey durations and large numbers of animals aboard live export ships, the live export trade has been the subject of large-scale disasters.

In 2019, a live export ship travelling from Romania to Saudi Arabia capsized, resulting in the deaths of more than 14,000 sheep. Originally, the number of deaths was reported as 14, 420, but upon inspection of the ship during a recovery mission, secret decks housing many more sheep were discovered. While the majority of sheep died by drowning, around 70 died from their injuries following their rescue by animal welfare charity, Four Paws.

In 2017 in another horrifying disaster, 2,400 sheep died from heat stress onboard a live export ship travelling from Australia to the Middle East. Whistleblowers filmed footage that can be viewed here, but we warn that it may be a distressing watch to some.

It’s time to #BanLiveExports

It’s simply a cruel, shameful chapter of our country that belongs in the dark ages.” Former senior veterinarian aboard live export ships Lynn Simpson, 2019

Take action now by sending a tweet using #BanLiveExports so we can create a global twitterstorm of voices pushing for change.