Lambs to the slaughter

Posted: 17th October 2012

Despite objections from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the High Court has lifted a freeze on the movement of livestock through the Port of Ramsgate to enable 45,000 lambs to be shipped to France for slaughter during the Islamic festival of Eid.

Mr Justice Burton ruled that the balance of convenience lay in favour of three Dutch meat companies who would have made very substantial financial losses had the export of the lambs been blocked.

Sheep2Thanet District Council, which runs the port which is England's only live transport hub, suspended live animal movements on September 13 2012 following an incident the previous day during which two sheep were drowned and 42 had to be destroyed after a consignment was accidentally unloaded into a vehicle washing area.

The council acted after receiving evidence from the RSPCA that facilities at the port are currently inadequate to humanely transport live animals. The RSPCA alleged that there was a lack of contingency plans for emergencies and inadequate arrangements to enable animals which are injured in transit to be unloaded either for treatment or humane euthanasia.

Lawyers representing the three companies argued that they had no involvement in the September 12 incident and had moved many thousands of male lambs through the port to the continent last year without any issues being raised about their welfare. It was pointed out that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs considered facilities at the port to be adequate.

Mr Justice Burton stopped short of lifting the movement ban altogether but granted interim relief to enable the urgent shipment of lambs for Eid and future exports by the three companies.

He said: ‘There is a dispute to be resolved. It is a dispute that I cannot resolve at this stage. My feeling is that it should not prevent these very urgent consignments going through. It is going to cause massive loss if they do not. The balance of convenience is massively in the claimants’ favour on the financial side. I am going to allow these shipments which are required for Eid.’