Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Live Animal Exports out of Ramsgate update


Trying to understand what has gone on here and where the various organisations stand isn’t easy.

I think two things changed the position and were the reasons why Thanet District Council felt that they should suspend live animal exports.

One was of course the major incident in which the sheep died or were put down.

The other was a report, compiled during the summer, by the RSPCA for TDC highlighting the inadequacies of Port Ramsgate’s facilities and warning of the consequences of an incident like the one that happened last month.

Well yesterday the case came before Mr Justice Burton with expert advice given by the RSPCA supporting the temporary closure of animal export facilities from Ramsgate.

My understanding is the DEFRA (The UK government department “Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) also gave advice, this advice conflicted with the RSPCA, what the DEFRA representative appears to have said is that there is no problem with the facilities at Port Ramsgate, and providing there are adequate facilities within a one hour drive of Ramsgate then Port Ramsgate don’t need to have animal export facilities to export animals.

It would seem that Mr Justice Burton gave great credence to the DEFRA advice which is probably why the temporary ban on live exports has now been rescinded by order of the court.   

I tried phoning DEFRA essentially in order to confirm. What? That they were happy for sheep with broken legs to be alive in a lorry for an hour before the are killed, well I didn’t say that to them, just that I would like as a matter of courtesy to confirm what the RSPCA had said about them causing the council’s case to collapse and presumably costing us council taxpayers a great deal of money.

After half an hour of being sent on the rounds of their switchboard I had eventually been transferred to another government department the AHVLA library. (Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency) frankly they seemed as surprised as me.

The way I have left it is that they were to have phoned me back or emailed me with some sort of explanation as to why the advice was given, so far they haven’t done this.


Now up to this point I have viewed this situation as being one where the UK national government and various local councils would like to stop exports of live animals, but can’t do so because of an EU directive.

It would appear though that for some reason or another at least on UK government agency is supportive of live animal exports, this of course also brings into question the real stance of our national government on this issue.   

My understanding is that exports from Ramsgate start later this week, the RSPCA say, thousands of the sheep destined for ritual slaughter, which means the won’t be pre stunned.

One way or another it appears that something is not as it should be over this issue, regardless of your stance on animal transport, this is a civilised country and our dealings with livestock should be reasonably humane.

I will add to this one as I get time.

32 comments:

  1. Michael, From your earlier post it seems that the legal advice changed for some reason. The advice when Bob Bayford was leader was not to suspend the shipments which is why they applied political pressure instead. Clive Hart has taken a totally different approach, thinking he can do what central government and the previous administration couldn't. Was there a second counsel's opinion to back up Clive's decision? I think we should know because in the light of the decision yesterday it was clearly flawed and an expensive mistake.

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    1. Nice try to switch the blame to the government and thus, once again, the Tories. Do you make it up as you go, Michael, or do you get your scripts from Labour HQ.

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    2. I think you have to appreciate that my information only comes from the RSPCA and DEFRA I haven’t contacted the council about it yet, it is my habit to check the facts for my postings here mostly as a matter of courtesy to the organisations or people involved.

      I phoned DEFRA as a matter of courtesy to check what the RSPCA had said about them, frankly their shenanigans with their phone setup were just rude and the modern equivalent of putting the phone down on me because they didn’t want to have to discuss the matter.

      I haven’t yet got around to asking the Labour group why they did what they did.

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    3. I think you will find that the DEFRA representative was simply presenting the legal position, not actually supporting live animal exports even if that effectively is the upshot. If the legal position is that a port is adequate providing there are animal shelter and husbandry facilities within one hour, then that is it and whether they feel that a sheep with a broken leg should be transported for a further hour or not is irrelevant. Humans in accidents are frequently taken on journeys of well over an hour to hospitals, often in London, that have appropriate facilities.

      How about keeping this debate to the legal question, which is really what it is all about, and cut out the attempts to divert blame anywhere but TDC.

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    4. I guess to have this argument you need to define what you mean by TDC in this instance, officers, Labour group, Conservative group or the whole caboodle.

      After this you need to know if there is any difference between the two political groups on the issue and i.e. would the situation have been different under a Conservative administration.

      This of course depends on what the legal advice was, which isn’t in the public domain.

      As things stand the council have decided on judicial review, I for one am uncertain why, or what the Conservative group’s official position is on this one.

      My guess is that inaction is not what the majority of local people want, so the Labour group are following the will of the electorate, an activity that is likely to see them re-elected.

      This raises the interesting issue of should the councillors be representing the electorate, following officer advice, just trying to keep their heads down and collecting their allowances or a mixture of all three.

      As it is I think I will stick to the easier problem of whether DEFRA gave wrong and inappropriate advice, at the moment I am taking the view of the RSPCA, it’s the best I have to go on at the moment.

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    5. Why am I not surprised at your answer which once again is full of irrelevance. This is a TDC decision under the present administration and Conservative opinion, which has in fact been stated by Chris Wells adequately, is of no bearing.

      Pleased to see you think Labour will be re-elected, but just wish you could be honest. You are a Labour supporter, as I am UKIP and Chris Wells is obviously Conservatve. At least Chris and I are honest about where we stand.

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  2. Dear Anonymous Conservative,
    Any excuse to belittle or run down the Labour Adminisration, either that or you have completly failed to understand the change in circumstances the led to the suspension of live exports.
    Apart from the fact that the appaling scenes we witnessed when sheep were slaughtered due to the injuries they sustained the fact is that there are no facillities within an hours drive to give animals rest and water if sailings are delayed the road worthiness of some of the lorries used is questionable to say the least.
    Mr Justice Burton should be ashamed of himself for granting an injunction to foreign applicants without seeking any further details, as usual the justice system has come down on the side of big business and sod whats right.

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    1. Beautifully scripted in language we can all understand, but which does not cut much ice in a court of law. Do you think saying that a judge should be ashamed on himself is going to help Thanet's case next time round, Cllr. Harrison? Judges have to work within the law, not emotion, whether we like it or not. Oh, and I am actually a UKIP supporter so if you Labour, Liberal and Tory people listened to us, we could get out of this shambles where we pay through the nose to be told what to do.

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    2. Mike Harrison's name icon says he'd like to punch people in the face. say no more.

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    3. Obviously modelled himself on Prescott then.

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    4. Mike Harrison,

      You are a Councillor. In the light of this do you not agree that your blog icon is a rather infantile, bearing in mind your duties as a politician? Personally, I find such sentiments in an elected public servant risible. It causes me to believe that you have scant respect for your chosen role in society. In which case why should I respect you?

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    5. Given his documented comments about women and homosexuals, I think it is obvious he has no respect for anyone or his position as a representative.

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  3. Here's a link to an easy-to-sign email to the Agriculture Minister that the RSPCA have produced. Do it now!

    Sign the RSPCA letter re live exports at Port Ramsgate

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  4. Obvious Labour supporterOctober 17, 2012 7:12 pm

    Doesn't Laura Sandys work for the Government at the Department for energy and climate change?

    Her website says that she now works there as a PPS: http://telllaura.org.uk/news/laura-sandys-mp-new-pps-to-minister-of-state-greg-barker-mp

    Seeing as she is so opposed to Live Animal Exports maybe it would now be a good time for her to resign from the Government that is backing them being exported through her own ward. Maybe she could use some of her new found influence to change the position of her Tory colleagues at DEFRA? More likely she will just continue to deplore the trade with words while still being part of the Government and taking no action at all.

    Also very rich for her to join the Government seeing as she used to criticise Steve Ladyman for being in Government and not having time for South Thanet. She smiles sweetly, but in the end is just another whipped back bencher going along with the Government.

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    1. Obvious Labour Supporter,

      .....and yet Laura Sandys remains the best constituency MP that Thanet has ever had. In addition to this she is decent, honest, intelligent, hardworking and charming. In the light of this it is no wonder that she gets up your nose.

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  5. Mike Harrison. You are trying to steer this away from those responsible for what appears to have been an irresponsible decision to suspend a legal trade. That has achieved absolutely nothing other than the likely cost to us all of a small fortune in legal fees and damages. For what ever reason, leaving apart all compassionate grounds for which we are all sympathetic, it is a Labour administration that is responsible for the decision to suspend, despite the earlier advice and previous cases. Blaming Justice Burton is ridiculous. The Council's lawyers were clearly unable to produce enough evidence to support the export ban. No matter how much you and your colleagues try to blame everyone else, until you are able to confirm that any new advice was to suspend, the ball is firmly in your court.

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  6. Obvious Labour Supporter, you are a bit short on facts or maybe knowledge. There are far more Tory rebels in parliament than Labour ones, the latter usually totally following the party line. Why then do you consider it off for an MP to support their government.

    Also, a PPS, is the lowest form of responsibility post up from a back bencher, little more than a bag carrier. Ladyman was a minister which is far more demanding on his time and he did start to neglect the constituency towards the end. Probably realised his days were numbered and was lining up his next job. Cannot really blame him for that, but there is no comparison with Laura Sandys' position.

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  7. Here we go, Labour slags off Conservative, Conservative slags off Labour, original subject matter completely ignored. Pathetic!!

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  8. Actually Tony, no thats not quite accurate. Both the previous conservative administration and the current labour administration were against the use of Ramsgate for this trade - as has been the MP, Ian Driver and many members of the public. The debate here relates to the tactics in opposing the trade, the legal advice that was sought, and where the most effective place and way to exert pressure to end the trade actually is. As I have said before, and Cllr Harrison has stated above, the death of so many animals should have been a game changer, and I think has been for members of the public unsure of their position. However, the legal advice received during the conservative administration, and the known attempts by other local authorities to end this trade through their ports all pointed to the same conclusion - that there was little or nothing that could be done legally to stop the trade and that it required change in westminster and brussels to effect real impact. I had several conversations with members of TALE about the legal position and checked many of their suggestions with the legal team, always getting the same response, and a warning about the costs and liklihood of success in challenge through the courts to any ban. The current adminstration seems to be claiming it has found a legal way to ban thetrade. This implies a different legal opinion; or a different attitude to risk with large sums of taxpayers money. That is a genuine difference in approach and should be explored so all can know the risks taken with their money in particular decisions.

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    1. Chris et al, the substance of this post is about a dispute over the issue between the RSPCA and DEFRA over information that DEFRA gave the judge, which the RSPCA say was likely to have resulted in an injunction to lift the council’s temporary suspension of live animal exports from the port.

      The RSPCA essentially saying that DEFRA said that the facilities that proved to be inadequate were in fact adequate. This is not a post about the rights and wrongs of the council taking legal action to permanently stop the port being used. Frankly I think this aspect is a national issue and little purpose is served if exports are stopped at Ramsgate and just move to another UK port.

      I have tried to get some response from DEFRA and failed, perhaps Chris you could contact them as a councillor and see if you can get any explanation from them.

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    2. Michael, whilst you may wish to deflect any possibility of criticism of TDC and direct it all towards DEFRA, since when did any item you have ever posted attract comments totally on thread.

      I agree with you about it being a national issue, for I have said time and again that this is a campaign to direct at Westminster and Brussels, not Cecil Street, Margate. Nonetheless, when our money is involved with a potential hit for a large slice of it for absolutely no benefit to those of us that pay it, then it becomes inevitable that TDC's actions will be scrutinised and criticised if found wanting.

      If you open up a debate you cannot confine it as there will always be tangents. At least, so far in this thread, you haven't got the Deal Bombing conspiracy or the Manston aquifer. Be grateful for small mercies.

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    3. Tom I think you may have got hold of the white stick and persuaded yourself it is a samurai sword. I am not defending TDC’s actions in seeking judicial review nor am I criticising them, as I don’t have the information.

      I am however supporting their action in temporarily suspending live animal exports because the port facilities proved inadequate.

      Now either the RSPCA are lying, or DEFRA advised the judge that the port facilities are in fact adequate, it isn’t the council who are publicly criticising DEFRA but the RSPCA.

      Of course there will be off thread topics and it I who decide which are spam and delete and which are just genuine comments off topics, I do my best with this and I hope you find it adequate.

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    4. The adequate means within a one hour journey by road, not that they are necessarily at the port. We may well, as do the RSPCA, choose to differ, but law is law. DEFRA were simply stating the position and that the trade is legal whether we like it or not. The UKIP supporter has a good point and probably the answer, even if it is not the policy of any of the main parties.

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    5. Michael,

      What on earth do you mean "I'm not defending TDC's action in seeking judicial review..." TDC didn't seek a judicial review. The Dutch importers sought the JD review against the Council's decision to interrupt a lawful business, whether we like that business or not. What concerns me now is that it has been claimed that the Council obtained a new opinion of counsel before making that decision. All efforts to get confirmation including my own, have resulted in the usual stone walling and being told the enquiry will take 20 working days under the FOIA. How bizarre is that, when a simple yes we have a new opinion which contradicted the previous one, would suffice. What needs to be answered is simply, did the Council receive legal advice before stopping the trade or not? With what can only be described and a marked reluctance to provide that confirmation, it can only be assumed that they didn't.

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    6. Chris @ 7:01

      "This implies a different legal opinion; or a different attitude to risk with large sums of taxpayers money. That is a genuine difference in approach and should be explored so all can know the risks taken with their money in particular decisions."........ Precisely, Chris.

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  9. Now it has been established that back up facilities must be available within one hour of the port and that the Port itself does not need to provide these facilities it safeguards the Port from potential procecution by exporters should anything had happened to their animals. Potentially the exporters could have sued the port for the loss on the 12th September - and that case would have been costly. It also opens the way for the owners of Ipswich port to reopen for live exports having closed the trade for the same reason that Ramsgate gave.
    Its a bit like health and safety at work, if you see something that is potentially a danger and report it to a manager, the company just ignores it and an accident happens, then the company and its managers are for the high jump. So TDC had no choice but to seek the best legal advice even if it meant spending money. They are not the first council that has had to do this to establish and uphold the law. Dale Farm cost the local council £6 millions to establish and uphold the law which I am sure Basildon council would rather have not spent.

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    1. Yes, but did they and if so, why wont they confirm that they did?

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  10. Why are we paying for TDC in-house lawyers to fail in preventing this?

    Sack them.

    And padlock the Port gates when the animal trucks turn up. Unsafe to load them etc etc.

    The Port doesn't have to accept any business - shooting 46 aninmals on the dockside hardly makes it a business worth having - especially after a year of failing to prevent this.

    TDC haven't been to Court in the last 12 months of this trade?

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    1. We need to know if their decision to stop the trade was based on proper legal advice as they have claimed, or whether Clive Hart and Alan Poole made the decision. Can anyone find the minutes of any meetings?

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    2. The argument about Live Exports from Ramsgate is a matter of Law. Politicians are not above the Law. The Court will decide. Michael you, especially you, but others also persist in going behind the facts. Perhaps in some instances this is down to tribal politics. It does not help the Court.

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