Ipswich: Anger over move to step up live sheep exports from port
CONCERNS were today raised that dozens more shipments of live sheep will arrive at the port of Ipswich in the coming weeks.
The controversial live exports began in the town last week – much to the fury of animal rights groups who dispatched members to protest against the trade.
Campaigners believe there could be two or three shipments a week coming through the port over the next two to three months.
The situation is being monitored by groups including the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, and Kent Action Against Live Exports (KAALE).
A meeting has been organised at Ipswich Town Hall on Friday evening at 6.30pm where representatives of animal charities will be joined by local politicians to plan a series of protests.
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RSPCA communications director David Bowles said his organisation had been told there would be more shipments through Ipswich during the autumn after the port of Ramsgate banned live exports following the deaths of 45 sheep the previous week.
He claimed the vessel took 15 hours to travel from Ipswich to Calais – which is in excess of the legal journey time if found to be the case.
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Mr Bowles said: “The rules say livestock can be transported for 14 hours maximum and must then have a one-hour rest, which is basically to be fed and watered, and then can travel another 14 hours.
“But that one hour rest must be still so they can have food and water – you cannot include time on the boat.”
He said there were two reasons for live exports rather than exporting them as meat.
Some of the animals would go for ritual slaughter which would be carried out under the watchful eyes of a local Imam. Although this could take place in this country and the meat could be exported as ritually-slaughtered, local communities preferred to have their own Imam carry out the inspection.
The second reason for exporting the animals was that if they were taken to France for slaughter, they could be sold in that country as “French lamb” which commands a better price than British lamb.
Mr Bowles said: “We want to get a change to the labelling rules so any meat that is labelled as ‘French lamb’ must have spent a considerable time in the country – not just brought across to a slaughterhouse near Calais when it has actually lived all its life in the UK.”
The cost of policing the demonstrations is met from normal police budgets – there was a heavy police presence last Friday although there were no arrests and traffic was not seriously disrupted.
There is always a cat and mouse game with protesters about when the livestock lorries arrive – but usually their arrival is timed during the later evening so they arrive under the cloak of darkness.
The protests in Ramsgate attracted hundreds of people – including actress Joanna Lumley.
FRIDAY’S meeting is at the Council Chamber at the Town Hall at 6.30pm and will bring together residents, local politicians and activists to discuss potential action against live exports from Ipswich.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant will be speaking along with Compassion’s director of public affairs Dil Peeling.
Also taking part will be campaign groups Kent Action against Live Exports (KAALE) and Thanet Against Live Exports (TALE) who fought live exports at Ramsgate before they were suspended and will share their experiences of monitoring and opposing the trade from their local ports.
Emma Slawinski, senior campaigns manager at Compassion, said: “We would urge everyone to come along to the meeting to listen to the arguments against live exports and to find out what they can do to help stop it.
“Public opposition and campaigning has greatly reduced the number of animals subjected to this cruel treatment over the last 20 years and we can end the trade completely if local communities like Ipswich continue to fight against it happening through ports in their towns.”
IPSWICH MP Ben Gummer
emphasised that the trade in live animals is legal and it would not be possible to ban it without falling foul of EU laws and World Trade Organisation regulations.
He said: “On a personal level I am not entirely comfortable with the trade, but it is legal and needs to be regulated.
“I am aware that they are looking at using Ipswich for these exports for a limited time – but I do have concerns about that, especially about the length of time the journeys take from the port.
“I have spoken to ministers at the Department of Transport and to (Environment Secretary) Owen Patterson to try to ensure that the strict welfare rules are obeyed to the letter.”
Mr Gummer said if it was proved that animals were being kept too long in their vehicles on the journey, the Government could take exporters to the European Court of Justice.
Ipswich Port is owned and operated by Associated British Ports. As the lorries prepared to arrive last week the company issued a statement saying: “As the Statutory Harbour Authority for the Port of Ipswich, Associated British Ports (ABP) is legally bound to handle all legitimate traffic.
“The shipment of livestock is a legal trade in the United Kingdom, monitored and regulated by government agencies such as DEFRA.”
The company did not want to make any further comment today.
THE vessel used to carry live animals has caused considerable concern.
The MV Joline is a former Soviet transporter designed to carry tanks across wide rivers – not as a sea-going ferry.
Now registered in Latvia, protesters claimed it travels at about seven knots which is much slower than normal ferries.
The RSPCA’s David Bowles said it was “like a tea tray bobbing about on the sea”.
The trip from Ramsgate to Calais can take up to five hours – but from Ipswich the journey took about 15 hours, according to the RSPCA.
Ramsgate port is owned by Thanet Council which banned the export of live animals after an horrendous incident earlier this month.
Inspectors found that some of the sheep on a consignment to France were lame and offloaded them on to the quayside to inspect them.
Six of the sheep fell into water and two drowned.
Another load of sheep was unloaded over fears they were injured. Two were put down by vets because they had serious injuries, one had a broken leg.
And another 41 had to be put down subsequently because they were found to be lame.