John Whittingdale supports the International League for the Protection of Horses.

John Whittingdale pictured, meeting representatives of the International League for the Protection of Horses lobby of Parliament against the lifting of the export ban on live horses for slaughter on 31 March.

My Conservative colleague, James Gray MP, the Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, has campaigned tirelessly, in conjunction with groups such as the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH), to bring attention to this issue. We held an exhibition in the House of Commons in April and also secured an Adjournment debate on 31st March to discuss the issue.

Under the current Minimum Values Legislation, the export of horses and ponies is effectively banned with the exception of high value horses for breeding and for competition. The UK’s exemption had been under threat by EU proposals to revise animal transport regulations and it had appeared that the Government was failing to protect our position. This would have resulted in the resumption of the live export of low-value horses for salami, which we, as a nation of horse lovers, find nauseating.

British MEPs, led by my Conservative colleagues, Neil Parish MEP and Roger Helmer MEP, successfully secured an opt-out provision in the European Parliament which would have enabled the UK to prevent the live export of horses to slaughter abroad and this was endorsed by the EU Commissioner in charge of the legislation. Despite this, the Government still continued to ignore our efforts. In the end the Government was saved from having to show its true colours as agreement on the animal transport proposals collapsed at an EU Council Meeting in April.

You will be relieved to hear that our campaign appears to have been successful in convincing the Government at last to accept the merits of retaining the minimum values legislation. Alun Michael MP, the Minister for the Horse, replied to a Parliamentary question from James Gray MP in June explaining that the Government was not in favour of the live export of horses for slaughter and that it would continue to operate the export rules until they succeeded in obtaining an EU-wide agreement. As I am sure you will agree this is welcome news and a testament to the efforts of all those involved in our campaign.