Live exports from Ipswich were resumed last week after being suspended at Ramsgate port following an incident two weeks ago (September 12) in which more than 40 sheep had to be put down on the grounds of animal welfare, and two died after falling into the water.
The RSPCA has welcomed ABP’s decision, saying that the port authorities were taking their responsibilities to the animals seriously. Gavin Grant, RSPCA chief executive had described the transfer of exports from Ramsgate to Ipswich as being “sneaked through the back door” and the RSPCA claims that ABP’s decision followed an exchange between the RSPCA and ABP.
Gavin Grant, RSPCA chief executive said: “ABP have acknowledged to the RSPCA that, like Ramsgate, their port did not have suitable facilities to help the animals should an emergency arise. Sadly, we saw the unacceptable suffering in Ramsgate in just such an emergency.”
“I recently raised the RSPCA’s concerns about this trade with David Heath, the new Minister of Agriculture and with the EU Commission. I continue to be in touch with Mr Heath and am meeting the Commission again in the coming weeks to brief them on these important developments.”
Grant also condemned the National Farmers Union (NFU) for trying to re-open Ramsgate, saying: “They should respect the views of the people of Ramsgate, Ipswich and this country that there is no place in a civilised and compassionate society for this vile trade that causes so much suffering to animals."
However chief livestock adviser Peter Garbutt said that exporting animals is a legal trade that is carried out throughout Europe and is subject to comprehensive legislative controls that need to be rigourously enforced throughout the EU . He said: "The health and welfare of the animals through transit is the top priority of farmers and anyone transporting animals has a duty to use the shortest route to reach their destination.
“We have met with the RSPCA and other animal welfare groups in the past few weeks to express our wish that the shortest route possible be used for animal transportation across the channel for that very reason. We have made it clear that the port of Dover would be the most suitable location, but as the boat being used is unable to dock there currently, Ramsgate is the next best option available.
The NFU has also called for a full and frank investigation into the incidents that led to the closure of Ramsgate port.
Garbutt said: "Concerns have been raised with us as to why contingency plans to deal with such events do not appear to have been followed by the bodies overseeing the trade and with the pressure that was placed on government officials to sanction the slaughter of these animals at the port by the RSPCA when more humane alternatives may have been available.”
According to the RSPCA, the Ramsgate incident occurred after a lorry loaded with 500 sheep stopped at the port and was declared to be unfit to travel due to faults to the vehicle. The sheep had to be unloaded while the transporters tried to get another lorry. It was the same lorry that had been declared unfit to travel just last month and had had two further failures at previous visits.
In a statement, the RSPCA said one sheep was discovered to have a broken leg and another was also injured; both were put to sleep on veterinary advice. The incident then deteriorated, as an area being used to store the remaining sheep then collapsed, leading to six sheep falling into water and two drowning.
Live exports from the port were subsequently suspended and an investigation ordered by David Heath, Defra secretary of state.