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 on September 12 and found some were unfit to travel.
However, the operation appeared to go badly wrong 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 were shot on the advice of a vet because they were lame.
The NFU said it has a number of concerns about how the incident was handled and wants these to be fully investigated during the inquiry.
“The NFU has called for a full and frank investigation into the incidents that led to the closure of Ramsgate port,” Mr Garbutt said.
“Concerns have been raised with us as to why contingency plans to deal with such events do not appear to have been followed by the bodies overseeing the trade and with the pressure that was placed on government officials to sanction the slaughter of these animals at the port by the RSPCA when more humane alternatives may have been available.”
The RSPCA denied there had been any pressure put on the vets to sanction the slaughter of the sheep.
RSPCA staff officer Dermot Murphy said the decision was taken to kill the animals at the port, rather than take them to a nearby abattoir, 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.
“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.
Live exports briefly resumed from Ipswich after the trade was suspended at Ramsgate but on Friday the RSPCA announced the trade had been suspended, after the port owners, Associated British Ports (ABP), acknowledged that it also lacked suitable facilities for the handling of animals should emergencies arise
Mr Garbutt said exporting live animals is a legal trade but insisted the health and welfare of the animals through transit is the ‘top priority of farmers’.
He said anyone transporting animals has a duty to use the shortest route to reach their destination and said the NFU have made it clear that the port of Dover would be the most suitable location on this basis.
“But as the boat being used is unable to dock there currently, Ramsgate is the next best option available,” he said.
The inspections resulted in two hauliers being issued with RSPCA warning notices – one for having broken ventilation fans and another for mixing sheep, some with horns, from different flocks in the same lorry. Animal Health also issued similar notices.
RSPCA inspectors issued the notices because of concerns for potential suffering, although the attending vet was satisfied the animals were fit to travel.
Emphasising the zero tolerance message, Mr Murphy said: "We have made it clear that if there are breaches of the rules we will take action."
|WHAT A COINCIDENCE, ANIMAL RIGHTS PROTESTS TOO!|