Anthony Browne is a former director of Policy Exchange and a former Europe correspondent of the Times.
It is an issue that spurred such public anger that it turned middle aged housewives who had never chanted a slogan into rebels laying themselves down in front of lorries. The export of live animals – in particular cows and sheep – for slaughter in other EU countries became the target of mass campaigns around East Anglian ports in the 1990s.
Blanket media coverage sparked popular outrage at the suffering caused to young lambs packed in lorries to cross the Channel. The Labour Government bowed to public sentiment, and promised to put an end to the practice. But then found it couldn’t – it would infringe EU Single Market rules.
Some years later, it was even tested in court: in 2012, 45 sheep died on a vehicle going through Ramsgate, but the High Court ruled the EU regulations means that the port could not ban live animal exports.
But after Brexit, the whole issue comes into play again. Seeing the opportunity from Brexit, animal welfare groups have ramped up campaigning on the issue.
Last year, the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs issued a call for evidence, saying it was looking at all the options. The Government is understandably worried about upsetting farmers, and so has not said it would go for a complete ban.
Faced with the public anger, farmers have already changed their practices – live animal exports for slaughter are now a tiny fraction of what they were 20 years ago. But for those particularly concerned about live animal exports, Brexit is their opportunity.