Thanet District Council suspended live animal shipments from the English port of Ramsgate following a horror show involving the deaths of more than 40 sheep. A four-tier lorry with 500 sheep was declared by port inspectors as unfit to travel. Subsequent unloading revealed over 40 sheep so lame they had to be put out of their misery; one had a broken leg. During unloading, six sheep fell into the sea, two drowned. Two drivers were reported to have been arrested.
Thanet council acted swiftly, announcing the next day a suspension of the trade. No doubt mindful of the obscure 1847 Harbours Act that forbids ports from turning away trade without good reason, the council has made it clear that the suspension stands until if and when provisions are in place to ensure the proper handling of the animals.
Just days earlier, in what now seems a prophetic letter, Thanet councillors wrote to Defra warning that there were “no suitable facilities” at the port to assure the welfare of farm animals. Councillors called for Defra’s support in taking action to protect the welfare of the animals caught up in this trade.
Ramsgate is the only port exporting live animals from England for slaughter or fattening. The trade moved there in 2011 when the preferred facility at Dover became damaged. A total of over 76,000 animals have been exported through Ramsgate so far this year; the vast majority being sheep, but also over 8,000 calves.
The local authority has taken a hugely welcome step. I loudly applaud Thanet District Council’s leadership in suspending this cruel and unnecessary trade. Whilst this is cause for celebration, it is unlikely to be the end of the story. History has shown animal exporters to be stubborn in keeping their trade alive, moving from port to port and even using aircraft to keep this trade in misery flowing. I fear that, as I write, exporters are plotting their next move. We look to Defra to heed public outcry and finish this trade off once and for all. All eyes are on David Heath and his ministerial colleagues to take decisive action against an archaic practice that has no place in modern society.
Please help us in taking action to end this trade forever. Thank you.