Despite protests from locals and animal welfare supporters, the live export of sheep and calves has started up from the Port of Ramsgate whilst Berth 1 at Dover is under maintenance.
A consignment of animals left the port for Europe on Wednesday 18 May 2011. The ship departed carrying pigs and sheep local to the Kent area and destined for slaughter in continental abattoirs and three truckloads of calves for fattening on the continent and believed to be from Ireland.
Despite objecting on "moral grounds", Thanet District Council, the owner of the port, takes the view that they cannot stop this trade as the courts have ruled that a port is obliged to take any legal trade even if they find it ethically objectionable.
Compassion strongly opposes the exportation of live animals and, in 1995, was involved in campaigns resulting in all the major ferry companies refusing to take animals destined for slaughter abroad.
Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor explains:
"We are appalled by all live exports for slaughter or fattening and are committed to ending them. British sheep exported to continental abattoirs are at risk of being slaughtered in inhumane and illegal ways. An investigation into 20 French abattoirs found many animals being slaughtered in breach of EU welfare rules. Indeed many sheep in France have their throats cut without first being stunned. British sheep should be slaughtered in this country as near as possible to the farm of rearing with our exports being in the form of meat."
thecattlesite.com reports that trade in calves from Northern Ireland has more than doubled since 2010, with over 7,300 animals exported so far this year. Spain remains the principal destination, with over 4,000 animals shipped between January and April. A new export destination has opened up in Hungary, with over 2,200 calves shipped there so far this year. Compassion is investigating whether the calves exported from Ramsgate were from Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland.