A UK government minister has hit back at claims by activists that he is back-tracking on animal welfare.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said activists were wrong to claim he was ditching pledges he has made on the future of live animal exports.
The UK is locked in negotiations over its departure from the EU – known as Brexit – which could re-write animal export laws in the UK.
Mr Gove has said he favours an outright ban on live exports to protect the welfare of the animal.
His department denied the claims he has changed his mind insisting he believed animals are sentient beings and that he is considering all options post Brexit.
His spokesman said: “We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and are going further, by raising maximum sentences for animal cruelty to five years and introducing mandatory CCTV in abattoirs.
“As the Secretary of State has made clear, we believe animals are sentient beings. As part of the Withdrawal Bill process, we are considering exactly how we can take forward this principle and will set out next steps in due course.”
Activists claim despite Mr Gove’s pledge government fears a ban on live exports might hinder Britain’s ability outside the EU to strike future trade deals with none EU countries.
Rights group Animal Aid said Mr Gove “appears to have reneged” on a promise that the EU law giving recognition of creatures as sentient beings will be converted into UK law.
Tod Bradbury, Animal Aid’s campaign manager said: “Animal Aid fears that this will result in a backwards step.”