New figures collated by Compassion in World Farming suggest the total number of animals exported through Ramsgate is already more than 60,000 since May, with December - traditionally a busy month - still to come.
Worse, the busiest three months were the last three, indicating a worrying trend. According to figures obtained by Compassion through FOI requests and from Kent activists KAALE, we estimate the number of animals that have been shipped through Dover and Ramsgate this year to be around 69,000.
Comparing this with previous years' figures on the EU statistics site, EUROSTAT, this makes 2011 the heaviest year for animal exports from Britain to the continent in five years. This is despite there being no sailings in April, as the berth at Dover was damaged and the exporters were unable to find a suitable port that month.
At a public meeting in Broadstairs on Saturday (26th November) Compassion's Phil Brooke told the audience that, while the number of animals is well below the peak of the early 90s, the trade appears to be picking up again.
Phil, who was on a panel of speakers which included Laura Sandys, MP for Thanet South and Keith Taylor, MEP for the South East, said since May, 143 lorries of sheep and 39 lorries of calves have been exported through Ramsgate as well as a few lorries of pigs and one of goats.
Long journeys and slaughter concerns
He said: "These animals have been on long journeys. Most have come from the West Country, west Wales, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.
"They have been exported to Belgium, the Netherlands and France and in the case of the calves some have travelled to Spain.
"And when these animals get to their destination, we have serious concerns over their welfare at slaughter. The EU's Food and Veterinary Offices reports on welfare at slaughter include plenty of examples of infringements of slaughter regulations, including in France."
He added: "I ask you not to let people be fooled by those who say that parts of this cruel trade are excellent, with locally reared sheep being sent to humanely run slaughterhouses nearby in Calais. Categorically, this is not a local trade. Most of the animals come from the further corners of England and Wales and they are at risk of ending up in under-regulated slaughterhouses over which we have no control."
Phil went on to describe the efforts Compassion is making across Europe to stop the trade, including supporting the 8hours petition but also running investigations to highlight the problems across the continent, as well as high-level political lobbying.
The next step to raise awareness in the UK will come in January, when Compassion's bus adverts, the first prize in the Big Bus Challenge are put up on buses around the country.
- Help our One Way Ticket campaign against long distance live transport in the EU