Disaster at Ramsgate as 45 sheep die

12 September 2012

Compassion is calling on the government to suspend live exports from Ramsgate immediately after the deaths of 45 sheep.

Today, a lorry carrying sheep destined for slaughter on the continent was stopped due to faults with the vehicle. The animals were unloaded. Two sheep, one with a broken leg, were put down. Another 41 severely lame sheep have been or were due to be euthanized. Six sheep fell into water after they were loaded into an area where the floor collapsed. Four were rescued by RSPCA officers but two drowned.

It has been reported that the sheep were injured by hydraulic ramps not fit for purpose and some had advanced foot rot or long standing illness.

This is the latest, and most serious, of incidents at Ramsgate which show that the trade cannot be carried out through that port without considerable animal suffering. It comes only days after Thanet District Council, that controls the port, wrote to Defra detailing the lack of adequate facilities that meant Ramsgate was not fit for purpose.

Among their key objections are that there are no facilities at the port for housing animals should the need arise. The incident yesterday proved this beyond doubt. Surely the government now has no option but to suspend the trade.

What is essential is the trade should not be pushed up or down the coast. It is an anachronism with great public opposition and something that inherently causes suffering when animals are forced to travel such long distances.

The live export trade is responsible for animal suffering on a regular basis. The long journeys are stressful for both sheep and calves. The stress factors involved in transport can include the mixing of unfamiliar animals, deprivation of food and water, lack of rest, extremes of temperature and humidity, handling by humans, exposure to a novel environment, overcrowding, insufficient headroom and noise and vibration.

Young calves are particularly poorly adapted to cope with transport. Their immune system and stress response are not yet fully developed and they cannot regulate their body temperature adequately.

Many of the exported calves may end up being reared for veal in conditions that would be illegal in the UK. Sheep exported from the UK may be slaughtered in France; an investigation into 20 French abattoirs found that many are slaughtering animals in ways that breach EU welfare laws.

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. Our calves should be reared in the UK to high welfare standards for either beef or veal.

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