The live export or shipment of livestock from Great Britain and Northern Ireland to other countries has come under fire in recent weeks.

The Live Animal Exports (Prohibition) Bill passed its first hurdle in parliament in October last year. A parliamentary debate on a motion to "ban the export of live farm animals in favour of a carcass-only trade and introduce this as soon as we leave the EU" will take place on 26 February.

Transportation of live animals, particularly by sea, has been a contentious issue for many years. Those reading recent media reports about over a million chickens dying every year while being transported to slaughterhouses understandably feel alarmed.

Each day, millions of birds are transported in the UK from farms to processing plants - a total of 1bn broiler chickens every year. They are moved from their comfortable spaces on the farm into crates, to be transported to the slaughterhouse. Some of these birds die in transit. This can be down to anything from heat stress to over-filled transportation crates to failure to adapt to prevailing weather conditions.

While we are talking about a very small fraction of a percentage of birds reported dead-on-arrival (DOA), four to seven birds out of a lorry load of 6,000), it is a level that the poultry sector has been striving to reduce. The sector has pushed for a revised statutory code for the welfare of birds across all of its production systems, and is developing guidance designed to improve welfare practices at the slaughterhouse.

It is important that consumers know that poultry meat businesses are working hard towards improving bird welfare during transit. The sector wants to ensure that its birds are transported in comfort and it is doing everything it can to reduce the number of birds that die.

Hauliers have looked at ways to improve airflow to dissipate heat and prevent suffocation. Some processing plants have built air-conditioned sheds where trucks can be parked which helps to prevent the build-up of heat. The sector is constantly looking for innovative solutions , including ways to redesign plants, so that large numbers of birds can be unloaded in the shortest possible time. After all, DOA is not in anyone's interest. From a business's point of view, only healthy birds have value.

It's much the same when transporting cattle, sheep or pigs, where strict regulations are already in place.

UK exports of live cattle, sheep and pigs have tripled in value over the past 5 years, to more than £21m, according to HMRC.

The market is fuelled by a desire among some religious communities for live animals for ritual slaughter, and in some cases, difficulties in rearing livestock and refrigerating meat. There is also the attraction of labelling meat according to the country it is slaughtered in - for instance Scottish lamb slaughtered in France subsequently being labelled as French lamb.

The live export of cattle and sheep forms an integral part of the Northern Ireland livestock sector, injecting in excess of £70m/year into local farm businesses.

More than 50,000 cattle and 500,000 sheep are exported live annually for further production or slaughter in other regions of the UK and to EU member states such as the Republic of Ireland and Spain.

The suggestion that movements across water should be banned, rather than all live exports, is similarly illogical as sea transit causes no welfare problems and ending it would decimate essential UK trade and devastate many island communities.

Livestock has to be transported by sea from Shetland and Orkney to mainland destinations for breeding, further fattening or slaughter. It's much the same for livestock reared on the western isles like Islay and Mull.

Even when such animals arrive in markets at the likes of Aberdeen or Stirling, they may well face long onward journeys to their final destinations in England or mainland Europe.

UK livestock hauliers are well-equipped to transport animals long distances by road with lorries that offer plenty of room, ventilation and water.

Legislation dictates that animals have to be decanted at regular intervals for inspection and rest in straw-bedded yards, before being reloaded onto their transport and continuing their journey.

While I have no reason to doubt that the welfare of animals being transported abroad by UK hauliers is of the highest standard, I do object to animals being exported live for slaughter, on the grounds that it doesn't make economic sense. After all, why should we export the value of the "fifth quarter" - hides and offal, and more importantly, why export the processing jobs involved in slaughtering the animals?