The High Court granted “interim relief” to force open the port of Ramsgate for live animal exports, which means thousands of sheep can now be shipped to the Continent.
Interim relief was given as exporters said they would lose customers and their businesses would suffer irreparable damage if they were stopped from transporting up to 75,000 live sheep to France for the Festival of Eid, as well as to cover other weekly orders.
NFU chief livestock adviser Peter Garbutt said: “We are reassured by this decision, which supports the fact that the movement of animals throughout Europe is a legal activity. The health and welfare of the animals in transit is a priority for everyone involved, and the NFU believes that anyone transporting animals has a duty to use the shortest route they can to reach their destination. This includes cross-Channel movements.”
A decision was made to close the port by Thanet District Council in the middle of September after 47 sheep were killed. The RSPCA said three of the 47 sheep drowned, while 44 other sheep, including one with a broken leg, were humanely destroyed on vet advice.
According to the RSPCA, it provided a report to Thanet Council highlighting the inadequacy of the port’s facilities and warned of the problems animals would experience in the event of an emergency.
Last month, the RSPCA said such an emergency arose at Ramsgate, when a lorry loaded with 500 sheep stopped at the port and was declared to be unfit for travel due to vehicle faults. The sheep then had to be unloaded while another lorry was commissioned.
In an RSPCA statement following the incident, the charity said one sheep was found to have a broken leg while another was injured – both were put to sleep on veterinary advice. The incident then deteriorated when an area used to store the sheep collapsed and six sheep fell into the water, resulting in the drowning of two.
An earlier assessment made by Defra said sufficient safeguards of animal welfare were in place in a contingency premises an hour’s drive away. However, High Court Judge Mr Justice Burton laid great weight on Defra’s view that it was not necessary to provide emergency facilities at Ramsgate itself.
The RSPCA has said it will have inspectors monitoring the situation at the port and will offer assistance with any animal welfare issues.
Chief executive of the RSPCA Gavin Grant will be joining protestors at Ramsgate tomorrow morning (19 October) at 7.30am. He said: “This is a black day for all who love animals and care about them. This ruling has put profit above animal welfare. This vile trade will deliver tens of thousands of sheep to their awful fate. We will redouble our efforts to protect these animals welfare and end this trade from Ramsgate when the judicial review is heard.”