A CALL for evidence for a potential ban on the live export of animals for slaughter after Brexit has been launched by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

The Farm Animal Welfare Committee has also launched a review into the existing welfare standards for animals during transport.

This is being complemented by research commissioned by Defra from Scotland’s Rural College and the University of Edinburgh.

Mr Gove said: “We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world which we are strengthening further by raising maximum sentences for animal cruelty to five years and introducing mandatory CCTV in abattoirs.

“All animals deserve to get the respect and care they deserve at every stage of their lives. This call for evidence begins to deliver on our manifesto commitment which aims to control the export of live animals for slaughter once we leave the European Union.

“With all options being considered, I am keen to hear from industry, the devolved authorities and charities on all possible options and evidence on this vital issue.”

The six-week consultation seeks views from across industry, devolved authorities, charities and the general public on how the government might raise standards of animal welfare during transport after the UK leaves the EU.

All options for future improvements in this area are being considered, including a potential ban on the live export of animals for slaughter.

Latest figures, from 2016, show that each year over 4,000 sheep are transported from the UK to continental Europe for slaughter.

John Fishwick, president of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), welcomed the consultation: “We believe that production animals should not be transported long distances to the abattoir but should be slaughtered as near to the point of production as possible. Animals should be transported on the hook, as meat, not on the hoof, as live animals.

“It is vital that we maintain the UK’s current high standards of animal welfare post-Brexit and seek opportunities to improve them. We look forward to contributing to this call and seeing the results once the evidence has been collected.”