Thanet Council lifts ban on Ramsgate live export trade
THANET District Council has lifted its temporary ban on the movement of live animal exports out of the Port of Ramsgate with immediate effect.
The ban, imposed after an incident on September 12 when more than 40 sheep were shot by RSPCA officers at the port on welfare grounds, was due to be challenged in a judicial review by the company operating the trade on December 11.
On October 16, a judge lifted the ban until the outcome of the judicial review was determined, allowing the port to remain open to the trade in the interim.
However, following legal advice ahead of the hearing the council has decided to unilaterally lift its ban. On this basis, it has asked Barco de Vapor, the transporters and owners of the ferry, Joline, to drop its legal High Court proceedings.
The council said the legal advice revealed that, ‘in the eyes of the law, the basis on which the ban had originally been imposed could no longer be sustained’.
The council said its decision also comes in the wake of Defra’s review into the circumstances and procedures of the live animals trade following the incident on September 12.
The council had argued that the incident showed it was the ‘victim of a situation’ where a decision was taken to off-load the animals found to be lame into the port enclosure and proceed with the slaughter of 40 sheep.
It said it had ‘no alternative but to impose a temporary ban on live exports on the ground that the lack of facilities at the port was detrimental to the welfare of animals and put the safety of its staff at risk’.
However the council has now conceded that: “Although still underway, it is very unlikely that the review will require additional facilities to be provided at or by the Port. Instead this will focus on revisions to the current arrangements. From the council’s point of view, this is a significant factor to be taken into account when deciding whether to continue with the legal case.”
Cabinet Member, Cllr Michelle Fenner, said: “Our position has always been to work within the legal framework to ensure the welfare of animals. The decision to impose the temporary ban at the Port was not taken lightly, following the horrific incidents in September, and we still consider this action to have been correct.
“In terms of now having to lift the ban, our hand has again been forced as we are duty bound to act in accordance with the law. We have to consider our absolute obligation to protect the public purse.
“As we’ve done everything in our power to get to this point, it is disappointing, however we have worked extremely hard in recent months and will continue to push the agencies involved in whatever legal way we can to ensure that the welfare of animals is protected.”
NFU chief livestock adviser Peter Garbutt said: “The NFU has consistently said that moving live animals throughout Europe is a legitimate and lawful activity and it is reassuring that these latest developments bear this out.
“Safeguarding the welfare of their animals during transport is a top priority for hauliers and farmers and the NFU has long called for the current controls to be rigorously enforced across the EU.”
He said the NFU now wanted to the Government report on the events at Ramsgate on September 12 ‘released as soon as possible’ and hoped it ‘will examine fully the roles that everyone at the port played in the events that unfolded’.
Compassion in World Farming director of public Affairs, Dil Peeling, says: “We share Thanet District Council’s disappointment at having to drop their attempt to suspend the trade from Ramsgate, a port that is clearly not fit for live exports. It is clear this needs a solution at the national level and we are urging the government to do the right thing and stop live exports for slaughter from this country.”
Earlier, this week John Onderwater, of the company Barco de Vapor accused the council of ‘obstructing its legal business’ and of ‘rallying up protesters’ against the trade, claims the council denied.