Michael Gove has been accused of backpedalling on a plan to ban the export of live animals from the UK after Brexit.
The Environment Secretary “sparked anger” yesterday after he signalled that the government could stop short of outlawing the practice, the Daily Mirror reports.
When asked three times about the issue on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Gove “repeatedly avoided using the word ban - using the word ‘restrict’ instead”, the newspaper says.
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The government already has the power to place further restrictions on live animal exports, but would only be able to ban the practice after Brexit, due to EU regulations.
In April, Gove announced a six-week consultation on a potential ban on the export of live animals after Britain leaves the EU, but has yet to publish its conclusions.
“All animals deserve to get the respect and care they deserve at every stage of their lives,” he said at the time, adding that he was keen to hear “all possible options and evidence” on the issue.
Former Conservative minister Theresa Villiers told the BBC earlier this year that Gove was “looking very seriously” at putting an end to the practice outright.
But during yesterday’s interview, the Environment Secretary repeatedly dodged questions about a ban, insisting that it was still “possible” and that “all options” remained on the table.
“We're going to see restrictions on live animal exports, certainly, and we're consulting at the moment,” he said.
Animal rights campaigners have been calling for a live export ban for decades, and have expressed their dismay at the apparent U-turn.
“The campaign to stop live exports is one that has run for many years, and an issue people feel very strongly about,” says James West, spokesperson for the Compassion in World Farming group.
It will be a “major disappointment to the majority of British citizens if the Government abandon their plans”, he added.
Labour shadow environment minister David Drew said Gove was “backpedalling on his promise” and called for urgent clarification from the government on the issue.
A Conservative spokesperson responded by accusing Labour of “hypocrisy” and said a ban “remains a possibility”.
The Labour Party manifesto “had nothing to say on this vital issue and now they are desperately playing catch-up”, they added.
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