A leading agricultural lawyer has spoken of his 'grave concerns' for the fortunes of sheep farmers following reports that livestock being transported to EU slaughterhouses could be killed mid-transit should no deal be reached on Brexit.
David Kirwan, managing partner at Kirwans law firm, said that livestock farmers could be ruined by any move by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to cull 'perfectly healthy sheep' should a Brexit agreement fail to be reached.
Recent reports have revealed that the slaughter of sheep mid-transit is one option being considered by Whitehall officials if a no-deal Brexit leads to days of delays or closures at ports.
Although it is considered unlikely that the situation would become so dire, the slow progress on Brexit negotiations mean that Defra has to plan for the possibility that such circumstances would arise.
With more than 4,000 sheep transported to EU slaughterhouses each year, the result could be catastrophic for farmers who raise stock for transportation.
David Kirwan said: "As if farmers didn't already have the very real fears that they might be liable to prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 if their animals are injured, regardless of the reason, while being transported, they now also face concerns that their sheep could be culled mid-transit.
“Such a move would have a devastating effect on these farmers, who could effectively see a large portion of their herd wiped out in one fell swoop.
“The government has a responsibility to these farmers, and to the animals alike, to ensure that such a horrendous situation is not allowed to come to pass."
"The government has a responsibility to these farmers, and to the animals alike, to ensure that such a horrendous situation is not allowed to come to pass."
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