Ben Gummer MP will be among those attending a public meeting in the Council Chamber of Ipswich Town Hall and Corn Exchange tomorrow (Friday 28th September) at 7pm.
Compassion and the RSPCA have called the meeting in response to Ipswich becoming the only British port for live exports to the continent. Last Friday, seven lorry-loads of sheep were taken on the ex-Soviet tank carrier the Joline to Calais, a journey of more than 14 hours.
Representatives from both organizations, as well as members of groups Kent Action Against Live Exports and Thanet Against Live Exports will be on hand to provide information to locals in Ipswich about live exports. Cllr David Ellesmere, the Leader of Ipswich Borough Council will also attend the meeting.
Emma Slawinski, senior campaigns manager at Compassion, says: "We would urge everyone to come along to the meeting to listen to the arguments against live exports and to find out what they can do to help stop it.
"Public opposition and campaigning has greatly reduced the number of animals subjected to this cruel treatment over the last 20 years and we can end the trade completely if local communities like Ipswich continue to fight against it happening through ports in their towns."
As well as challenging Associated British Ports, which runs Ipswich Port, to prove it has the necessary facilities to take live exports, Compassion is calling on British farmers to bring an end to the trade by taking responsibility for the animals they have reared in refusing to sell them to exporters.
The recent deaths of 46 sheep at Ramsgate, which culminated in the suspension of exports from the port, has once again highlighted the inadequate conditions animals are being transported in.
It was hoped that the suspension of exports from Ramsgate on 12th September would mean a temporary halt in the trade from the UK. However, exporters quickly moved the trade to Ipswich with a consignment of sheep leaving the Suffolk port late Friday (21st September) night.
Speaking to the Farmers Guardian, NFU chief livestock adviser Peter Garbutt is reported to have said:
"Most farm animals are transported at some stage during their lives for breeding purposes or for further rearing. The key issue is that these animals are transported under the right conditions in order that they arrive at their destination fit and healthy.
"Journeys over eight hours or between EU member states make up a very small but important minority of all movements and these take place using specially designed vehicles,"
The MV Joline, which currently handles all live exports from Ipswich, is a flat-bottomed boat designed to carry tanks across rivers, and can be unstable when it encounters rough weather. According to the RSPCA, the boat has an average speed of just six knots (7 mph) - less than half the speed of the average cross-channel ferry. This does not sound like the type of 'specially designed vehicle' Mr Garbutt believes are used to transport British animals safely across the EU.
Concerns over the welfare of animals on board the Joline are compounded by the fact that the crossing from Ipswich takes twice as long as it does from Ramsgate. The sheep that left Ipswich on Friday were at sea for 15 hours, much of it at night.
Mr Garbutt is right to highlight the importance of animals arriving fit and healthy at their destination, but it is clear the current system does not guarantee this.
The incident at Ramsgate, which led to the suspension of exports from there, involved sheep that were no longer fit to travel and had to be euthanised. In this case either the sheep were unfit at the point of loading, or had become so during the journey to the docks.
Either way, they did not arrive at their destination 'fit and healthy'. A further three sheep drowned. These incidents occurred before they even left UK shores. What would happen to them once they leave the UK, is beyond the control of the farmers that reared them.
In an open letter to Peter Kendal, President of the National Farmers Union, Philip Lymbery, CEO of Compassion in World Farming, urged farmers to take responsibility for the welfare of their animals:
"Most farmers do not export their animals; I urge the minority who do to end this practice and instead to ensure that their animals are slaughtered in Britain.
"The long journeys to the continent are stressful and in the worst cases entail very considerable suffering. In addition, British animals are often poorly treated at journey's end.
"The sheep and dairy sectors receive generous subsidies from the taxpayer. In return they should respond to public opposition to live exports and bring the trade to an end."
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