The British government on Friday launched a consultation on banning the export of live animals for slaughter after Brexit, saying it would be free of EU laws.
Existing EU trading rules allow for animals to be transported abroad for slaughter and a 2012 attempt by a local authority in the UK to ban the practice was deemed in breach of EU free trade.
The proposals are part of an eight-week consultation launched in England and Wales seeking views on how to better protect animal welfare during transport.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said the government was “committed to improving the welfare of animals at all stages of life” and called the consultation a “major step forward”.
The ban could be implemented as early as next year, Eustice said.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also noted that European Union rules had prevented changes in the past.
“Now that we have left the EU, we have an opportunity to end this unnecessary practice,” Eustice said.
During the UK review, the British government will look to apply stricter rules on transporting animals in extreme temperatures and the conditions for transporting live animals at sea.
It will also aim reduce transport times for livestock inside the UK.
Animal rights campaigners have welcomed the start of the consultation.
Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said there was “absolutely no reasonable justification to subject an animal to an unnecessarily stressful journey abroad simply for them to be fattened for slaughter”.
The consultation, which ends on January 21, will deal with conditions for the transportation of animals from England and Wales.
Northern Ireland and Scotland, the other nations of the United Kingdom, have devolved powers over animal welfare.
London has said it will look to consult with Edinburgh on the issue.
Northern Ireland, which will have Britain’s only land border with the EU from January 1, will continue to follow the bloc’s legislation on animal welfare in transport.
The move is designed to avoid customs checks and border infrastructure that were a key part of the 1998 peace deal that ended decades of violence over British rule in the province.