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Burton gave great credence to the DEFRA advice which is probably why the temporary ban on live exports has now been rescinded by order of the court.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