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Unsung heroes

News Section Icon Published 14/09/2012

Kent Action Against Live Exports (KAALE) and Thanet Against Live Exports (TALE) know more than most about the cruelties of the live export trade.

Every time a live export ship has docked in Ramsgate, campaigners have been there to meet it. This extraordinary level of commitment deserves the highest commendation. The victory of the temporary suspension of live exports from Ramsgate belongs to all who have taken action, sent messages, lobbied politicians and signed petitions - but it belongs most to the individuals who stood at Ramsgate Port for long hours, in all weathers, bearing witness.

Ian Birchall, Chairman of KAALE, his wife Yvonne, the group's Secretary and their press officer/lobbyist Mark Johnson, a Compassion stalwart, have fought against live exports from the UK's ports since their campaign began in the 1990s.

At Ramsgate, they recorded what was coming through the port at every sailing, and along with their fantastic fellow volunteers took photographs and sent out briefings, which have proved crucial to supporting Compassion's lobbying efforts and investigations unit work.

Their physical presence at the port has also been a constant reminder that while the trade continues, they will continue to oppose it.

Ian and Yvonne are no strangers to the battle against live exports, they were involved in the port protest and were familiar faces at rallies and lobbies against the trade in London and further afield.

They have played a major part in bringing large numbers to marches and rallies in Ramsgate, undoubtedly raising the profile of the issue locally and letting people know exactly what was going on at their port.

Councillor Ian Driver, of Thanet District Council, and Reg Bell reacted to the trade moving to Ramsgate in May 2011 by setting up TALE.

They immediately mobilised public support against the trade. The first example of this was seen at the public meeting in June 2011 when over 200 people filed into St Lawrence Parish Hall in Ramsgate on a windswept and rainy night to hear speeches from KAALE, TALE, the RSPCA and Compassion.

They have undertaken considerable lobbying of both central government and Thanet District Council, and have played a vital role in setting up both rallies that have happened in Ramsgate since the trade began.

Without the work of all these individuals and their fellow volunteers, none of this would have been possible. Their contribution to the cause is second to none. Their commitment will be needed in the coming months as we push for a permanent end to live exports from the UK.

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