One of the nation's most popular actresses, Joanna Lumley, called on the services of another old favourite today - a London Routemaster bus - to highlight the 'ghastly' practice of long-distance live animal transportation.
The Absolutely Fabulous star and animal rights campaigner made her appeal at the launch of Compassion in World Farming's 2012 £200,000 national bus campaign in Trafalgar Square.
According to figures obtained by Compassion in World Farming, 2011 saw a three-fold year-on-year increase in sheep and calf exports from Britain to the continent - more than 80,000 farm animals in total, according to the charity.
Compassion aims to highlight the plight of millions of farm animals transported across the world every year on journeys it claims can last for weeks with animals being made to suffer unduly. The organisation cites investigations by animal welfare groups across Europe that have found animals being held in cramped, overcrowded conditions with no access to water and sometimes resorting to eating their own bedding while others have been injured or died during transport.
Lumley said: "The numbers involved in live exports is shocking. We need to act on this ghastly trade now. 2012 is an auspicious year. This is the year for change!
"We ask farmers to please find alternatives and we need to make it more lucrative for them to slaughter their animals closer to home. Ask your MEP to enforce an eight-hour limit and stop and think about your food and where it comes from. I urge you all to take more responsibility."
According to Freedom of Information responses from Defra, the only port used for exports to the continent as from May last year was Ramsgate in Kent and Compassion is calling on the authorities there to raise the price they charge.
Joyce D'Silva, Compassion's Director of Public Affairs called on the British government to show the lead in Europe on the issue, urging ministers to "to fight hard at the negotiating table in Brussels to set much shorter maximum journey times for animals in transit, preferably no more than eight hours."
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