|RSPCA LICENSED TO KILL 46 SHEEP|
The live export trade switched to Ipswich after an incident at Ramsgate Port on September 12 in which 46 sheep died.
Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) and RSPCA inspectors made the decision to shoot sheep at the Kent port after vets examining 500 sheep on board a lorry found many were unfit to travel.
However, chaos then ensued as the sheep were moved into an area used for washing vehicles, due to the lack due to the lack of holding facilities at the port. In the process the sheep moved what the RSPCA described as a ‘loose cover’ causing some sheep to fall into an underground tank. Despite a rescue operation that saved four sheep, two drowned in the incident.
In all, 46 sheep died as two suffered broken legs and a further 42 had to be shot on the advice of a vet because they were lame.
In light of these events, questions have been asked about AHVLA and RSPCAs’ handling of the incident, including why the sheep had to be shot in the difficult surroundings of the port, rather than be transported to a local abattoir to be slaughtered, and how they endured further suffering after they were removed from the lorry.
RSPCA staff officer Dermot Murphy said the decision was taken to kill the animals at the port on the basis of veterinary advice that they were ‘not in a fit state to be transported’. “After receiving the veterinary advice, the only option was to remove them from the lorry at the port,” he said.
He said the animals were shot by RSPCA officers ‘trained in the humane euthanasia of animals’ and that the officers were unaware of the hole in the washing area and that there were a concerted effort by all present to rescue the sheep.
“The RSPCA had recently sent a report to Thanet District Council stating that Ramsgate port did not have the necessary facilities to satisfy the welfare needs of the animals,” Mr Murphy said.
AHVLA said it was ‘working with other parties involved to review what happened’ at Ramsgate and will comment on its conclusions when it is completed, which expected to be mid-October.
“AHVLA takes its responsibilities for implementing regulations governing the welfare of animals during transport extremely seriously. AHVLA inspectors undertook risk-based checks when animals arrived at the port of Ramsgate and referred any serious welfare infringements to the relevant local authority for any necessary enforcement action, which could lead to prosecution,” an agency spokesman said.
Live exports from Ramsgate, in Kent, were suspended by Thanet Council on September 13, following the incident.
The ferry that had been operating from Ramsgate departed from the Port of Ipswich with a cargo of sheep on Friday night and arrived in Calais on Saturday afternoon, a move the RSPCA described as moving the ‘awful trade through the back door’ to another port .
Commenting on news that live exports have now been suspended from Ipswich, RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said: “I am delighted that ABP have suspended this dire trade. They are taking their responsibilities seriously to the animals.
“ABP have acknowledged to the RSPCA that, like Ramsgate, their port did not have suitable facilities to help the animals should an emergency arise. Sadly, we saw the unacceptable suffering in Ramsgate in just such an emergency.