RSPCA defends role in Ramsgate sheep incident

THE RSPCA has defended its part in the deaths of more than 40 sheep at Ramsgate port in September after a report suggested it had a major influence on key decisions made on the day.

A timeline of events in a report on the incident by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) said the RSPCA objected to the agency’s original plan to move the sheep to local ‘contingency premises’ rather than unload them at the port.

The NFU has subsequently accused the RSPCA of ‘exerting significant influence over government officials on the ground’, despite having no official role at the port.

The RSPCA said the report raised ‘a number of serious questions’ as to AHVLA’s inspection regime and the adequacy of facilities at the port to cope with emergencies, which are the subject of an application made by the RSPCA for judicial review.        

It said, however, that it ‘clearly states that all the key decisions on the day were taken by the competent authorities; AHVLA officers’.

The RSPCA said its inspectors were present at the port at the invitation of Thanet District Council and that, on September 12, the report shows they ‘offered assistance and advice to AHVLA officers in what were clearly difficult and testing circumstances’.

“In an emergency such as this, no one should be surprised that there were different views as to what action should be taken. However the only authority that could instruct action were AHVLA,” the RSPCA said.

The RSPCA pointed out that the transporter’s own contingency plans were not followed and that the AHVLA sought to find a suitable location within the port to unload the vehicle after other options were rules out.

The charity insisted its objection to the initial proposal that the vehicle be allowed to drive on to the contingency premises was ‘well-founded’, as AHVLA inspectors later found ‘fist sized gap between the deck floor and the shell of the vehicle’ that would have risked ‘severe injury to the animals’.

It added that the decision to destroy around 40 injured sheep at the port was taken by an AHVLA vet and the independent vet called in by the RSPCA and that the slaughter had been described as ‘humane’ by AHVLA and Farming Minister David Heath.  

It said the amount of blood shown in the photographs was caused by ‘moving the dead bodies to an area where they were piled up pending collection for disposal’.

It also defended the photographs it took of the slaughter and subsequently publicised in the media.

“The photographs, while shocking, provide a visual record of the sad outcome of the day’s events and a springboard for discussion about the conditions under which this trade is operating at Ramsgate port,” the RSPCA said.

Ray Goodfellow, RSPCA chief legal officer, said: “There is a clear public interest and expectation in ensuring that the welfare of animals involved in live transport is safeguarded to the full extent that the law allows. The RSPCA will campaign to end this trade. While it exists we will continue to act to safeguard the welfare of these animals and to ensure that they receive the full protection of the law.”

Readers' comments (8)

  • I am a sheep farmer and it is my ethos to care and tend animals until they are sent to market. If they are sick or lame I treat them until they recover providing their welfare is not compromised. I find it difficult that so many sheep in this load required euthanising for their welfare, unless they all had broken legs. The description of symptoms in the report are sparse , there are still questions to answer over why so many sheep of this previously vetted consignment were found to be so unfit to travel a few hours later.

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  • Why was this report, which is (as observed above) "sparse" on crucial details, only being published six months after this appalling incident? Did RSPCA lawyers have a continuing "role" in telling AHVLA personnel what to say?

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  • What I do not understand is why so many legal and proper authorities allow a charity, (the RSPCA), to interfere in the first place. The RSPCA are not vets, nor are they trained in animal husbandry etc, so why allow them to barge in and dictate in the first place.?

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  • The RSPCA can offer their advice but in these circumstances they should leave the matter to the competent authority and allow the professionals to make decisions based on the facts and their experience. The RSPCA should be ridiculed for their influence and involvement in this matter. If the RSPCA would not have intervened the animals would have been transported away to a suitable location for euthanasia. Most importantly the RSPCA have manipulated the whole event to raise their own profile, which has yet again made animals suffer. They call them selves a welfare organisation. It’s appalling.

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  • Some things never change, yet another cover up by the RSPCA that fails to explain why photo's were taken of blood splattered walls - what did the vets use - baseball bats????????????

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  • It's about time we all went to see our MP over the conduct of RSPCA and their manipulation of media. I understand that when talking to media now , the interviewee is warned that they should say nothing against RSPCA as the media outlets have all been warned off of by the legal dept. Free speech only one way it would seem !

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  • Jesse, can you imagine what goes on behind closed doors when the RSPCA has to put down so called rescued pets?

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  • I have never heard such drivel as stated above by these so called caring farmers. Two independant vets were present and both agreed the animals were unfit to travel any further. Just because they are going to slaughter and religious slaughter at that without pre stunning does not excuse ignoring their obvious plight in this unsuitable vehicle.

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